Vol. 37, No. 8 August/September
Barbara Pierce, Editor
Published in inkprint, in Braille,
on cassette and
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The National Federation of the Blind
Marc Maurer, President
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Baltimore, Maryland 21230
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National Federation of the Blind
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NATIONAL FEDERATION OF
THE BLIND IS NOT
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Vol. 37, No. 8 August/September 1994
by Barbara Pierce
by Marc Maurer
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND AWARDS FOR 1994
FOR EMERGING CHALLENGES AND PARTNERSHIPS
by Fredric K. Schroeder
LET THE WING
OF THE BUTTERFLY FLAP
by Marc Maurer
CLASS OF 1994
by Peggy Elliott
by Kenneth Jernigan
by Susan Spungin
OF AGENCIES AND CONSUMERS
Summary of remarks prepared by Hilda Caton
HOW TO PASS
A BRAILLE BILL
by Homer Page
ADVANCEMENT FOR THE BLIND IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY
by Barbara McCarthy
ADOPTED BY THE ANNUAL CONVENTION OF THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
by Ramona Walhof
THE CONSTITUTION OF THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
Copyright 1994 National
Federation of the Blind
[LEAD PHOTO: The towers of the Renaissance Center as taken from the ground, looking up. CAPTION: Detroit's Renaissance Center, pictured here, scene of the 1994 Convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Four office towers surround the Westin Hotel, which soars 72 stories into the sky.]
[Photo #1: Mr. Maurer stands at the podium with his arm extended, ready to bring down the gavel. Caption: President Maurer gavels the opening session of the 1994 Convention to order.]
[Photo #2: Lynn Mattioli bends down on one knee, facing Kaylee Arthurs. Lynn holds Kaylee's cane--with its silver spur hanging from the top--and Kaylee holds Lynn's cane, which is almost twice Kaylee's size. Caption: At National Conventions, blind children have the opportunity to learn from blind adults. Here, Kaylee Arthurs of Ohio compares canes with Lynn Mattioli of Virginia.]
[Photo #3: Nicolas Stockton stands with his cane in one hand, pushing his stroller. His piggy bank is in the stroller, and John Cheadle is reaching down and placing a bill into the bank. Caption: Nicolas Stockton and his pig gratefully receive a contribution from John Cheadle to help establish the West Virginia cane bank.]
[Photo #4: Tammy Kearney and Sandy Jo Hansen, walking with canes, step on to the People Mover. Caption: Federationists Tammy Kearney of Wyoming and Sandy Jo Hansen of South Dakota took advantage of the People Mover to explore downtown Detroit.]
[Photo #5: A junior-high-aged girl sits cross-legged on the floor, reading a Braille book in her lap. Caption: Braille readers of all ages took part in the Braille-a-thon. Here, Ellen Nichols of Maryland settles down for a good read.]
[Photo #6: Russell Anderson stands behind an exhibit table stocked with canes, demonstrating canes to people in front of the table. Caption: Russell Anderson of Colorado assists Federationists to find just the right cane in the exhibit hall.]
[Photo #7: Carol Cotton stands behind the head table and speaks into the microphone as Marvin Sandler looks on. Dr. Jernigan sits at the head table. Caption: Carol Cotton of the Royal National Institute for the Blind announces the availability of RNIB products from Independent Living Aids, Inc., while Marvin Sandler, President of ILA, looks on.]
[Photo #8: Mrs. tenBroek sits, smiling, holding a stuffed cow. Caption: Hazel tenBroek, first First Lady of the Federation, attends a meeting of the lawyers' division accompanied by the newest member of her stuffed animal collection.]
[Photo #9: A toddler sits on the floor, playing a toy keyboard which is in her lap. Other children sit and play in the background. Caption: Elizabeth Jacobson from Minnesota enjoys the toys at NFB Camp.]
[Photo #10: A 9-year-old girl runs through the grass with her cane outstretched and a big smile on her face. Caption: Hailee Linhart of Washington enjoys NFB Camp activities on the third floor podium of the hotel.]
[Photo #11: A man sits behind the microphone with his hands on the Myna computer. Caption: Venkatesh Chari of Technology for Independence demonstrates the Myna computer.]
[Photo #12: Hundreds of Federationists sit, talk, and eat at picnic tables. Caption: More than 1,000 Federationists celebrated the Fourth of July at an old fashioned American picnic.]
[Photo #13: Dr. John Smith plays the piano and sings into a microphone. Caption: Dr. John Smith competes in the Music Division Showcase of Talent.]
[Photo #14: Portrait. Caption: Richard Edlund.]
[Photo #15: Portrait. Caption: Ed McDonald.]
[Photo #16: Portrait. Caption: Gary Wunder.]
[Photo #17: Ernest Laginess stands at the podium and Mr. Maurer stands beside him, holding the Braille teaching tool high in the air. Caption: President Maurer displays the Braille teaching tool with Ernest Laginess at his side.]
[Photo #18: An elementary school student stands at a table with his hands on three-dimensional pictures. Caption: Federationists of all ages enjoyed the art at the Tuesday afternoon exhibition and sale by blind artists. Kyle Neddo of Michigan examines three-dimensional pictures.]
[Photo #19: High school and college students sit at a round table with poker chips in front of them. Caption: Monte Carlo night provides a grand opportunity for fun and fellowship.]
by Barbara Pierce
Sometimes annual conventions of the National Federation of the Blind are filled with a sense of history in the making, like the one in 1986 in which we elected Marc Maurer as President for the first time. Sometimes they are stirring and full of challenge, like our fiftieth anniversary convention in 1990. Sometimes they ring with exuberance and high spirits, like the 1991 convention in New Orleans. And sometimes they manage to embody both the pain and the joy of family life, the height and depth of human experience--which, when freely embraced, create true community in an organization or a people.
The 1994 Convention of the National Federation of the Blind was such an event. At one extreme was the joyful wedding of long- time Federationist Harold Snider and Linda Fossett, following the noon recess of the Tuesday morning general convention session. The Rev. Robert Eschbach performed the ceremony, and the entire convention was invited to attend.
At the other extreme was the death early Tuesday morning of little Justin Buterbaugh of Phoenix, Arizona, who was two years old. He had a history of seizures and died quietly and instantly in his sleep. His mother, Maria, had recently learned about the Federation and was attending her first convention. She had already formed several friendships and had been overjoyed to discover the hope and optimism of the NFB's approach to working with blind children.
The entire convention was shocked and grieved when President Maurer explained the tragedy at the opening of the Tuesday morning session, and Federationists rallied 'round with the love and concern that we have come to expect and depend upon at such times of sorrow in our Federation family. NFB friends surrounded and supported Maria throughout that difficult day and accompanied her home to Phoenix. When Federationists learned on Wednesday of the Buterbaugh family's need for substantial financial help to deal with the heartbreaking expenses associated with the tragedy, members immediately contributed nearly $4,000 to help.
Late in the week Jim Omvig, one of the leaders of the Arizona affiliate and Chairman of the PAC (Pre-Authorized Check) Plan Committee, reported to the convention a conversation he had had with Maria after her return home. She talked of the funeral arrangements. Then she asked how efforts to sign up more people on the PAC Plan were going. In response to his statement that he hadn't yet had much time to work on PAC but that he was sure people would respond positively, she said: "I learned while I was there that the most important thing in this world for any parent of any blind child is to have literature produced by the National Federation of the Blind and to come to the National Convention. Please ask people for me to help fund the organization." That spirit of determination and dedication to the Federation and its mission, come what may, permeated the entire convention and made it unforgettable.
A word must be said about the Westin Hotel and the entire Renaissance Center. The architecture was a challenge to the travel skills of the best among us, but the array of shopping possibilities, restaurants, and meeting space was truly outstanding.
The Westin staff were pleasant, eager to help, and interested in the convention. One front desk employee approached a member of our national staff to ask if she could be placed on the mailing list to receive Federation literature. She explained that she was finishing medical school and was planning to become an ophthalmologist. She figured she needed to know about the NFB and wanted to attend the convention next year in Chicago.
The hotel engineering staff particularly distinguished themselves. An example is the incident involving Kaylee Arthurs, who is a deaf-blind four-year-old. Kaylee was working one day with her mother and Joe Cutter, one of the finest cane travel teachers of young children in the country today. Over the past three years Kathy Arthurs has taught her daughter everything she knows about using a cane because the experts in her area refuse to work with Kaylee on cane skills. Kathy was eager to have an expert critique Kaylee's technique. In the course of this activity Kaylee managed to drop her cane down the elevator shaft. She realized immediately what she had done and sank to the floor, reaching for the cane and sobbing, "Cane, cane!" Kaylee's cane has a silver spur threaded onto the chain in order for her to find it quickly at NFB Camp, the child care program at National Convention.
When an attempt was made to give her another cane to use in place of the one now at the bottom of the elevator shaft, Kaylee rejected it because there was no spur; it was not her trusted cane. She was too upset for explanations to get through to her-- so the elevators were turned off, and an employee with the necessary expertise was called in on triple overtime (it was the Fourth of July). He crawled in and found the cane. It took two hours and the efforts of a lot of people, but Kaylee got her own cane back. As soon as it was in her hands, the tears dried; she agreed to leave the elevator area; and after she dispensed hugs to everyone who had taken part in the rescue operation, she ran off, using her cane. And some people still maintain that young blind children have no need of the information a cane can give them.
Another remarkable youngster who made his mark on the entire convention was pre-schooler Nicolas Stockton from West Virginia. Nicolas, whose great-grandfather, Dr. Sam Lawton, was the founder of the South Carolina affiliate, is energetic and already an involved Federationist. He has received assistance from the NFB, and he already understands how important canes are for independence-minded blind children, so he decided to try his hand raising funds to establish a cane bank for the families of blind youngsters in West Virginia. Nicolas started his campaign by contributing the pennies in his piggy bank--in fact, he contributed his bank as well. All week long, wherever Nicolas went, the pig accompanied him, and Nicolas's invitation was always the same: Please help us begin a cane bank in West Virginia. Very soon it became necessary to use a stroller to carry the bank, but Nicolas was not deterred. By the close of the Convention the bank weighed thirty-four pounds; and, when the money was counted, Nicolas had raised more than $400 for the state's cane bank.
By Thursday evening, June 30, hundreds of eager Federationists had already checked in and were exploring the Renaissance Center and the parts of Detroit accessible by the People Mover. Well over a thousand people were on hand for the nineteen activities and workshops scheduled, beginning at 7:30 on Friday morning, July 1. These included a seminar on tax law and financial planning for retirement; a workshop on assistive learning devices for deaf-blind people; the first annual Braille- a-thon, which raised about $3,500 to help promote Braille literacy; and many more activities.
This year's day-long seminar for parents and educators of blind children took place on Friday, July 1. A large number of blind and sighted youngsters visited the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village, while others were cared for in the NFB child care facilities at the hotel. In the afternoon there was a convention orientation session for teens, and on Friday evening families enjoyed hospitality and one-on-one conversation with blind convention attendees, true experts on blindness. As usual, Friday afternoon was the time of the annual Job Opportunities for the Blind (JOB) seminar. JOB is a job referral program jointly conducted by the National Federation of the Blind and the United States Department of Labor, and this seminar is always packed with helpful and worthwhile presentations and opportunities for exchanging ideas and information. Presentations from both the parent and JOB seminars will appear in Federation publications in coming months.
It was the Motown sound that drew everyone Friday evening to a dance and the first real opportunity to see old friends, establish new relationships, and enjoy music and conversation. This was the first of the Michigan parties, and it set the tone for the lighter side of the Convention for the week to follow.
Saturday morning brought convention registration with its fast-moving lines and first look at the convention agenda. (Well over a thousand people registered before noon.) The 25,000- square-foot exhibit hall opened mid-morning, and the crowd poured through the doors to look at what's new in appliances and technology for blind people. Eighteen NFB chapters, affiliates, and divisions took the opportunity to sell things and provide literature and other information. As always, one of the most popular areas in the exhibit hall was the NFB Store and demonstration area, where shoppers could examine and purchase all the aids and appliances sold year-round through the Materials Center at the National Center for the Blind. In addition delegates could stock up on Federation literature in Braille or print or on cassette. This year display booths were staffed by more than fifty vendors, including two international groups. One of these, the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) of the United Kingdom, announced at the convention that for the first time RNIB products will now be available for purchase in this country through the auspices of Independent Living Aids, Inc., of Plainview, New York.
Saturday afternoon and evening thirteen Federation committees and divisions conducted seminars or meetings, including the Resolutions Committee, which traditionally meets for several hours on the afternoon of convention registration day. Because of the importance of the work of this committee, very few other meetings are scheduled during that time, and hundreds of interested Federationists gather to listen to the committee discuss issues and decide on its recommendations to the Convention. Nineteen resolutions were brought to the committee this year, eighteen of which eventually came to the convention floor for debate and action. The texts of these resolutions are reprinted elsewhere in this issue.
Sunday, July 3, was filled with committee and division meetings, twenty-one in all. That evening also saw a production of Jerry Whittle's new play, Time for Every Purpose, presented by the Louisiana Center for the Blind Players.
The meeting of the Board of Directors, which took place at nine o'clock Sunday morning, was as always the first actual convention session. It began as usual with a moment of silence for those in the Federation family who had died during the past year.
Following the roll call of Board members, the pledge of allegiance to the flag of the United States, and the NFB pledge, President Maurer announced that for personal reasons three members of the Board of Directors had decided not to run for re- election this year: The Rev. Frank Lee (Alabama), Glenn Crosby (Texas), and Dr. Fred Schroeder (New Mexico). After explaining that Dr. Schroeder had been nominated by President Clinton as Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration (the nomination was confirmed by the United States Senate on Friday evening, July 1), President Maurer read Dr. Schroeder's letter of resignation:
Dear President Maurer:
It is with sincere regret that I offer my resignation from the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind. I wish my resignation to be effective July 3, 1994. During the ten years I have served as a member of the Board, I have gained immeasurably from the energy and dedication of the Federation's many thousands of members. Through the Federation I had the opportunity to develop a belief that I as a blind person could live a full and normal life. I particularly wish to thank you for your friendship and encouragement and Dr. Jernigan for his wisdom and kindness. Through your efforts the blind of the nation have an effective vehicle for creating change through collective action.
Thank you for giving me an opportunity to be a part of the Federation's efforts to promote real equality for the blind of the nation.
Fredric K. Schroeder
After remarks of welcome from Allen Harris, President of the Michigan affiliate, Dr. Jernigan, Chairman of Convention Organization and Activities, made a number of announcements. He demonstrated a credit-card-size recorder that will record about sixty words for brief note taking and which the Federation was selling for $20 at the Convention and $25 afterwards (plus $5 shipping and handling). He also demonstrated a talking clock with alarm, selling for $10 (plus $3 shipping and handling) as long as they last.
Dr. Jernigan also described the three newest books available from the NFB. The first is called If Blindness Comes and replaces What You Should Know About Blindness, Services for the Blind, and the Organized Blind Movement, our general information book. This small paperback is now available from the Materials Center at the National Center for the Blind at $12.50 for a case of fifty. Individuals may receive a single copy free of charge. The two newest titles in our Kernel Book series of large-print paperbacks are The Journey and Standing on One Foot. These are available for $3 a copy or $50 for a case of forty-eight. Like all of the other Kernel Books, they are available in Braille ($10) and on cassette ($5).
President Maurer announced that the organization now has forms available to assist members in making provision to remember the National Federation of the Blind in their wills. He urged people to consider making these arrangements and said the advice of tax attorneys is available when necessary.
The Board then voted that in the future at least three of the National Federation of the Blind's scholarships be designated each year for award to previous scholarship winners. Peggy Elliott, Second Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind and Chairman of the Scholarship Committee, then introduced the twenty-six scholarship winners for 1994. A full report of this year's scholarship program appears elsewhere in this issue.
David Ticchi, President of the Cambridge Chapter of the NFB of Massachusetts, presented a $1,500 check to the National Federation of the Blind from his chapter and announced that a similar check would be presented to the Massachusetts affiliate. Brett Winchester, President of the Western Chapter of the NFB of Idaho, announced that his chapter had given $4,000 to the National Federation of the Blind from a bequest, had purchased 100 SUN shares, and had an additional check for $1,000 to purchase 100 more SUN shares during the Convention. The SUN (Shares Unlimited in National Federation of the Blind) Program is our new effort to generate funds intended for future or emergency use. It is not an endowment fund since the money is available if needed, but the intention is to reserve the principal of all such contributions for investment and to use only the interest for ongoing Federation activities.
Sharon Maneki, Chairwoman of the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award Committee, next presented that award to Joe Cutter of Wharton, New Jersey. A full report of this ceremony appears elsewhere in this issue.
Steve Benson, Member of the Board of Directors and President of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois, then introduced Tony Burda of Chicago, a pharmacist, who had just completed the grueling Denver Post Ride the Rockies. This bicycle race of 422 miles from Trinidad to Golden, Colorado, requires participants to compete at an altitude ranging between nine and twelve thousand feet. Tony and his work colleague and friend, John Boland, rode the entire distance in six days to raise funds for the National Federation of the Blind.
Mary Willows, Director of NFB Camp, the day-camp-like child care facility provided during Convention sessions and the Banquet, then reviewed this year's hours and costs and invited children to participate. She arranged for a number of Federationists to contribute their skills and talents during the week to show youngsters what blind people can do and to supervise them in exploration of all kinds of interesting activities.
President Maurer then announced the creation of a task force composed of representatives from the parents division, the computer science division, and the Research and Development Committee. This group's goal is to develop computer games and activities for young blind children that will provide them with the beginning computer skills that their sighted classmates now get from using drawing and other visual computer games in school. The task force is looking for people with expertise in early childhood learning and educational computer software. Interested people should contact Mrs. Cheadle at the National Center for the Blind.
The Board then turned its attention to the Associates Program. President Maurer announced that from June 1, 1993, through May 31, 1994, 395 people recruited 3,203 Members-at-Large to become Associates of the Federation. Those recruited not only make contributions (almost $80,000 during the past year) but also become full-fledged members. The top ten recruiters by number of Associates and by dollar amount are as follows:
Top 10 in Number of Associates Recruited
10. Pat Tussing (Indiana), 63
9. Mary Ellen Jernigan (Maryland), 84
8. Kenneth Jernigan (Maryland), 85
7. Laura Biro (Michigan), 90
6. Karen Mayry (South Dakota), 94
5. Fred Schroeder (New Mexico), 97
4. Arthur Schreiber (New Mexico), 113
3. Toni Eames (California), 118
2. Bill Isaacs (Illinois), 145
1. Tom Stevens (Missouri), 210
Top 10 in Dollar Amount Raised
10. Jim Salas (New Mexico), $1,289
9. Larry Streeter (Nebraska), $1,290
8. Fred Schroeder (New Mexico), $2,097
7. Bill Isaacs (Illinois), $2,235
6. Tom Stevens (Missouri), $2,302
5. Karen Mayry (South Dakota), $2,486
4. Mary Ellen Jernigan (Maryland), $2,677
3. Duane Gerstenberger (Maryland), $3,081
2. Toni Eames (California), $3,081
1. Kenneth Jernigan (Maryland), $12,108
At 9:45 a.m. on Monday, July 4, President Maurer gaveled the first general session of the 1994 Convention of the National Federation of the Blind to order. As always there were numerous drawings for door prizes. This year the job of randomly selecting the winners was done by the remarkable little 386 computer, the Myna, produced by Technology for Independence. This tiny palmtop, weighing only 1.2 pounds, combines DECtalk speech with IBM's ScreenReader and will soon have a twenty- or forty-character refreshable Braille display at the option of the purchaser. This amazing little computer was awarded as a door prize at the close of the Banquet on Wednesday evening, and many at the Convention hoped mightily throughout the week that their names would be drawn.
During the welcoming ceremonies a representative from the Detroit City Council read a resolution proclaiming Independence Day, 1994, as National Federation of the Blind Day in the City of Detroit. Governor John Engler also proclaimed the week National Federation of the Blind Week in all of Michigan in a proclamation that was read to the Convention. The remainder of the morning was devoted to procedural matters and the roll call of states.
The afternoon session began with this year's Presidential Report. As always this address was a powerful and moving summary of the organization's past year and an irresistible call to action for the year ahead. The full text of this report appears elsewhere in this issue.
Following the Presidential Report was a panel of Federationists who talked about their jobs. These included Sandy Halverson from Missouri, "Teaching in the Business Setting"; Jim Salas from New Mexico, "Supporting the Armed Forces of the United States: Blindness No Hindrance"; and Steve Handschu from Michigan, "The Aesthetic Sense." All three described the ways in which they accomplish their jobs and the battles they have faced in getting where they are. Their remarks were lively, interesting, and inspiring.
The final agenda item of the afternoon consisted of presentations by Dave Vogel, Director of Rehabilitation Services for the Blind in Missouri; Shirley Smith, Director of the Department of Services for the Blind in Washington; and Arthur Schreiber, Chairman of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind. All three described the improving relationships in their states between their vocational rehabilitation agencies and consumer organizations of the blind.
In concluding this discussion Dr. Jernigan made a general statement aimed at all directors of agencies serving blind people:
I want to ask you to think with me for a moment about agencies in general. Our relationship has been changing, and we must avoid certain pitfalls and certain sophistries. When an agency director says, "I don't play politics. I deal equally with both organizations," it depends on what is meant. If what is meant is, "I don't give better service to somebody who claims to be a member of one rather than the other," the answer is, "You shouldn't give service on the basis of organizational affiliation at all; and if you do, we will come after you." That is bad business, even if you favor members of our organization; that obviously goes without saying. But if an agency means, "I will duck being responsible to organizations by the following tactic: when representatives of one come to see me, I will say, `I can't really deal with you or be responsive to you because the other one might get mad at me,'" what that really means is, "I will not be responsive to consumers, and I will do as I please, and furthermore, I will treat you as if you couldn't make me do differently." If that's what is meant, that's bad business.
I'm not talking to these three agencies; I'm talking to every agency in this country. If I were an agency director, (A) I would give equal service to all blind people, and I wouldn't think about organizations. And (B) I would be truthful in this way: I would be responsive to people who I thought could help me politically, and I would be responsive in proportion to the power of the political groups involved. That's what agencies really do; that's what all of us do, and that's what we should do. Not compromise principles; I'm not talking about that. But I can tell you this; I think I can prove it to you: let an agency director get three calls simultaneously from the President of the United States, the governor of the state, and a client--do you want to guess which one he's going to talk to? Play politics? Of course we play politics--all the time--all of us do. You're going to answer the President of the United States first. Incidentally, so am I; we all are. Then, if the President lets you loose, and you have time, you'll answer the Governor. Then, if you have time, you'll get to the client. Somebody may say, "Nah, I'd be real brave and tell the President to go to blazes; I'll deal with my client first." It's all right, but, if you say that, you're a liar; that's not the way it's going to be.
We have a right to expect candor. Once I talked to a group of agency directors. I said to one of them, "In your state the ACB is stronger than the NFB; and, if I were you, I'd pay more attention to what that group says. If we get stronger, you'll have to pay more attention to what we say, but in either case that has nothing to do with what kind of services you ought to give." More to the point, both ACB and NFB are going to get to the place where they combine on at least one thing: we are going to see if we can start making agencies for the blind pay when they try to play one of us off against the other and pretend to neutrality.[applause] I have been working with the national President of ACB to see if we can establish a partnership in that respect. When that happens, we are really going to put the bite on such agencies.
I understand that in some states there are still situations in which, if one group--no matter how weak--feels that the other group is getting preference, it goes and complains. Short- sightedly and in the agency's short-term best interest, that agency director may neutralize out and try very hard not to work with the stronger organization, whichever it may be. Such behavior will and should discourage the strong organization as it gets stronger from defending that agency. In short, what we seek is true partnership and realism in political dealing. Anybody who interprets that as meaning that we are asking for better services for our members than for other blind people does not understand us and will learn better, because we will undertake to teach well on that score. And again, the reason is self-interest. If we were to sanction for a moment giving less good services to members of another organization, in reality we would be inviting discrimination against our own members. We would never do that; that is not the way to get the best services. What we seek with the agencies is honesty, candor, true partnership, and realism. In short, we want to deal with the agencies as an organization, irrespective of how they deal with the ACB, and I suspect the ACB is equally tired of hearing talk about how they can't be dealt with because of the NFB. I don't wish to see us yoked with ACB or ACB yoked with us. And in the long run this view will prevail.
So ended the Monday afternoon general session. What could be more appropriate for the Fourth of July than a picnic, including all the hot dogs and hamburgers, baked beans and lemonade, apple and cherry pie one could eat--oh, and beer as well? That's the way well over a thousand Federationists spent Independence Day evening this year. The party took place on the open-air third- floor podium at the Westin. The location made it easy to rotate between the picnic and a full evening of Federation activities continuing to take place in the hotel.
As usual these included a workshop for parents of blind children on the Individualized Education Program (IEP) and the Music Division's annual Showcase of Talent. With no entrants in the composition division the judges were instructed to award two first and two second prizes in the performance category this year. The winners were as follows: Stanley Wainapel, M.D., (New York) classical piano, first prize; Bob Burke (Connecticut), contemporary piano, first prize; Dr. John Smith (Ohio), contemporary voice and piano, second prize; and Stephanie Pieck (New York), piano, second prize.
One other of the many activities that evening is worthy of special note. The NFB gave birth to the Science and Engineering Division on the Fourth of July. A number of eager and enthusiastic Federationists gathered to accomplish the deed, and John Miller of California was elected President. Dr. Michael Gosse will edit the group's newsletter, and there are high hopes and great plans for a publication worthy of educational circulation to scientific and engineering companies around the country.
Tuesday morning's Convention session opened with the 1994 elections. President Maurer announced that the hold-over Board members with another year to serve are Don Capps (South Carolina), Priscilla Ferris (Massachusetts), Sharon Gold (California), Betty Niceley (Kentucky), and Joanne Wilson (Louisiana). Ramona Walhof, who chaired the Nominating Committee, then gave the Committee's report. The names of the following people were placed in nomination as officers of the National Federation of the Blind: Marc Maurer (Maryland), President; Joyce Scanlan (Minnesota), First Vice President; Peggy Elliott (Iowa), Second Vice President; Ramona Walhof (Idaho), Secretary; and Allen Harris (Michigan), Treasurer.
To fill the six two-year Board positions the names of the following were placed in nomination: Steve Benson (Illinois), Charlie Brown (Virginia), Dick Edlund (Kansas), Sam Gleese (Mississippi), Diane McGeorge (Colorado), and Gary Wunder (Missouri). Ed McDonald, President of the National Federation of the Blind of West Virginia, was nominated to fill Fred Schroeder's unexpired term. All candidates were unanimously elected.
Longtime Federationists will recognize the names of both Gary Wunder and Dick Edlund. Gary returns to the Board after a year's absence, and for many years Dick served as Treasurer of the NFB. He retired from the Board when he was elected to the Kansas House of Representatives in order to have enough time to learn the ropes of state government. Now that he is an old hand in the legislature, he has sufficient time to return to active involvement with the Federation Board.
Ed McDonald, too, is a longtime Federationist. Quiet and thoughtful, Ed's sleeves are always rolled up when there is work to be done. He produces, records, and markets radio programs from his own studio in Keyser, West Virginia. This is what he said to the Convention after his election:
Thank you very much, President Maurer, Dr. Jernigan, and fellow Federationists. This is certainly an honor and a humbling experience for a person of generally few words. Apparently 1969 must have been an outstanding year for a lot of us. [Richard Edlund and President Maurer had already referred to the 1969 Convention as their first Federation Convention.] It was in that year, twenty-five years ago, that I attended my first state convention in West Virginia, at which Dr. Jernigan was our national representative. Since that time my life in the Federation has been a sort of spiritual pilgrimage, with all that that implies. The work and words of Dr. tenBroek, Dr. Jernigan, and President Maurer have been the inspiration; and my fellow Federationists, fellow pilgrims as it were, have been the support and the strength in that pilgrimage. Except that it hasn't had just one destination; it's had a lot of milestones along the way. This is one of them. And it brings with it a lot of opportunities for me, opportunities for growth and learning and more work and more contributions. I can only say to you that I will do my best to recognize those opportunities and to seize them and to make the best of them and to do all that I can to propel this movement forward. Thank you very much.
The next agenda item was a presentation by Ernest Laginess, co-administrator of one of the Chrysler Corporation's Product Quality Improvement Teams. The Subcommittee for Community Service of this team began work in October of 1992 on an idea proposed by Dave Hilliker, whose daughter Allison has had great difficulty winning the right to learn Braille. [See the July, 1994, issue of the Braille Monitor.] Hilliker proposed that the team find a way to redesign a little Braille teaching tool that had been handmade for the NFB by another company several years ago. The cost of production was still too high, so, even though the tool is very useful, it has not been generally available. The Chrysler team went to work, and the outcome (1,000 small Braille teaching tools) was being presented to the Federation in this ceremony. These small devices are capable of forming any Braille symbol since they consist of two enlarged Braille cells side by side with steel pins that snap back and forth to create the six Braille dots in each cell. Chrysler presented not only the thousand Braille teaching tools, but the equipment for making them; and several suppliers whom Chrysler asked to donate additional materials and parts have generously provided them in order that more of the little tools can be assembled. A number of the Chrysler employees and supplier representatives responsible for this project were in the audience and were warmly acknowledged and thanked by convention delegates. Those interested in ordering a Braille teaching tool from the NFB of Michigan's Parents Division can contact Sue Drapinski, 111 W. Woodward Heights, Hazel Park, Michigan 48030. Checks in the amount of $10 for each tool should be made payable to NFB of Michigan.
Frank Kurt Cylke, Director of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress (NLS), then addressed the convention. His title was "Books, Books, Books." Because of the press of time, his remarks were short, but he warmly thanked the Federation for the heart- felt expression of support for the NLS Program Federationists demonstrated in the House and Senate this year when the Library's budget was under attack. He then provided a few statistics about current and future NLS book production and invited interested people to talk with him that afternoon or contact him in writing after the convention.
Carl Schier, an attorney from Troy, Michigan, then spoke on "Civil Rights and the Blind: Twenty-five Years of Progress." Mr. Schier was the lawyer who fought two landmark discrimination cases in Michigan for the Federation in the late sixties and early seventies. He reflected on how far the disabled and the entire nation have come and what remains to be accomplished. Michigan Senator Carl Levin next addressed delegates. His title was, "The Blind Can Make it Happen: Winning Equal Rights Through Organization, Commitment, and Action."
Dr. Jernigan then warmly introduced several people visiting the convention representing O.N.C.E., the Spanish organization of the blind. Enrique Servando, the Director General of O.N.C.E., addressed the audience in Spanish, and Eileen Rivera, President of the Greater Baltimore chapter of the NFB of Maryland, translated his remarks for listeners. Mr. Servando described the challenges facing O.N.C.E. and the solutions that are being found.
Shortly before the noon recess the Convention was delighted to hear an outstanding address from Dr. Fred Schroeder, newly confirmed Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration. Dr. Schroeder, who received rousing ovations both before and after his speech, chose as his title, "Preparing for Emerging Challenges and Partnerships." His speech appears elsewhere in this issue.
The final agenda item was presented by Dr. Euclid Herie, Chief Executive Officer and President of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB). He spoke briefly on the subject, "CNIB Technibus--Wheels for the Mind." He described the touring bus that CNIB fitted out to serve as a traveling technology fair containing 100 pieces of technology for blind and visually impaired people. The bus traveled 24,000 miles in eight months during the CNIB's seventy-fifth anniversary year and visited more than 150 communities. About 17,000 people toured the display and learned what is available to assist blind and visually impaired people.
When the convention session recessed, delegates scattered to an afternoon and evening of tours, workshops, seminars, committee meetings, and fun. One of the events was the second annual art exhibit and sale, prepared by blind artists and enjoyed by many conventioneers. In addition people could attend an outreach seminar on Social Security programs and Supplemental Security Income, a number of Descriptive Video movies, a workshop on children's programming, and the student division's annual Monte Carlo Night.
Despite the brevity of the night's sleep, the Wednesday morning convention session opened to a full house and a crowded agenda. The first item was "By the Blind, for the Blind-- Providing Orientation Training: a Panel Discussion." The participants were Diane McGeorge, Director of the Colorado Center for the Blind; Joanne Wilson, Director of the Louisiana Center for the Blind; Joyce Scanlan, Director of BLIND, Inc., Minnesota; and Sharon Gold, Director of the Lawrence Marcelino Center for the Blind, California. Together they reviewed the history of effective rehabilitation for the blind of the United States and demonstrated through anecdote and program description that successful rehabilitation can and does happen frequently--in NFB centers, at least.
The next item was an address by Congressman Joe Knollenberg, ranking Republican on the Subcommittee on Minority Enterprise, Finance, and Urban Development of the Small Business Committee in the United States House of Representatives. His title was "Business Opportunities for Blind Americans: How Minority Status Can Help." Congressman Knollenberg believes that supervision of the Section 8(a) Program of the Small Business Act should be moved to the Commerce Department's Minority Small Business Agency.
The final presentation of the morning was made by Dr. Shirley S. Chater, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA). Her title was "Implications for the Blind: A Report on the Social Security Re-engineering Program and Other Developments." It was a clear and comprehensible review of SSA's efforts to make service delivery more efficient and faster. Dr. Chater's grasp of the complex program she administers was impressive, and she seemed genuinely committed to improving things for program recipients.
Most of the afternoon session was devoted to the consideration of Braille. The opening item was titled, "To Read, To Believe, To Gain Independence: A Panel Discussion." The speakers were Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, President Emeritus, National Federation of the Blind; Dr. Susan Spungin, Vice President, National Program Services, American Foundation for the Blind; and Dr. Emerson Foulke, substituting for Dr. Hilda Caton, Director of the Braille Research Center at the American Printing House for the Blind, who was ill. Dr. Homer Page, President of the NFB of Colorado, and Ms. Barbara McCarthy, President-elect of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, also addressed aspects of the Braille question; and their remarks were treated as part of the panel discussion. This entire Convention item was extremely interesting and is reprinted elsewhere in this issue.
Betty Niceley, President of the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille, was then called forward to make the 1994 presentation of the Golden Keys Award to Mr. Joseph Sullivan, whose knowledge of and work with the various Braille codes have been of immense assistance in the effort to devise a unified Braille Code. The entire award presentation appears elsewhere in this issue.
The final agenda item for the day was presented by Dr. C. Edwin Vaughan, Professor of Sociology at the University of Missouri. It was titled, "Blindness: A Perspective from China," and was a lively report on his most recent teaching experience and travel in China.
The annual banquet (chaired by Dr. Jernigan) was what it always is--an event filled with high good humor, anticipation, and inspiration. In addition to the twenty-six scholarships conferred during the festivities, two awards (the Jacobus tenBroek Award presented to Dr. Homer Page and the Distinguished Service Award presented to Doris Johnson) were bestowed at the banquet. All of these presentations are described in more detail elsewhere in this issue.
The banquet address was vintage Federation fare, one of the very best President Maurer has so far delivered. He reminded his listeners that, when sixteen people gathered in a Wilkes Barre hotel room in 1940 to form the National Federation of the Blind, their small act of determined defiance of society's expectations forever changed the lives and dreams of blind people in this country. The title of this memorable address was "Let the Wing of the Butterfly Flap," and it appears elsewhere in this issue.
Despite a post-banquet party that lasted into the small hours of the morning and a fund-raising escapade by members of the student division in which they climbed the stairs of the seventy-story hotel (some more than once), delegates were in their seats Thursday morning for the opening gavel. The day was devoted to organizational business matters. Dr. Jernigan delivered the financial report, and James Gashel, Director of Governmental Affairs, gave the legislative report. The eighteen resolutions brought to the Convention floor were debated and passed. In addition a number of other brief reports were made. For example, Dr. Jernigan reported that forty-six international visitors had registered for and attended the Convention. They were from Australia, Canada, England, Germany, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, and Thailand.
Ollie Cantos, President of the National Association of Blind Students, reported that they had already collected almost $900 from the stair climb. More was coming in all the time, and the division would be contributing half the proceeds to the national organization.
Individuals, chapters, and affiliates were busy all week buying and pledging to buy NFB SUN Shares and collecting bright yellow ribbons to affix to their convention badges. By the close of the week Gary Wunder, Chairman of the SUN Committee, reported that more than $20,000 had been raised for this important investment program.
Jim Omvig, Chairman of the PAC Committee, reported Thursday afternoon that by the close of the convention seventy-five new people had signed up on the Pre-Authorized Check Plan, which meant that 1,413 Federationists were now members of PAC, making automatic monthly contributions to the Federation. They are now contributing over $326,000 a year through PAC.
Shortly before the close of the final general session, Steve Benson, President of the NFB of Illinois, came to a microphone to say:
Mr. President, I want to make sure that everybody here is in Chicago next year. We promise you only the finest National Convention we have ever had. I have the pleasure, with a few other people from Illinois, of being the National Convention host for the fifth time. And it's going to be better than we've ever hosted in Illinois! Come on to Chicago!
So began our journey to the 1995 Convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Like this year's convention, the year ahead will be filled with joy and sadness, hard work and challenge, dreams and drudgery. But we have goals to reach and promises to keep. We packed our bags with renewed determination to invest our time well between now and then. Blind people wait to learn about the Federation and the hope it brings. Numbers of parents will learn this year that their children are blind. There are injustices to resist and victories to win before we gather again on July 1, 1995, in Chicago. But as always, we are up to the challenge and ready for the adventure.
[Photo: Mr. Maurer stands at the podium, reading Braille. Caption: President Maurer delivers his 1994 Report to the Convention.]
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF
JULY 4, 1994
by Marc Maurer
The activities of the National Federation of the Blind during the past year have been extensive and diversified. The change in the scope and breadth of our undertakings from the time we first organized has been dramatic. We have become much bigger, much more complex, and much more vigorously involved in a broad spectrum of endeavors than we were even as recently as a decade ago. The Federation might seem to be different from its former self to those who have known it only superficially, but our essential character as a nationwide movement of the blind working on a volunteer basis, along with our sighted colleagues and friends, has never altered. The spirit which is the driving force of our organization is as clear, as distinct, and as alive today as it was when our founder Dr. Jacobus tenBroek and those few other blind people established the Federation at Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, in 1940.
We are the blind, organized in every part of the nation-- those who have recently become blind and those who have been blind for a long time; the older blind; the parents of blind children and the children themselves; those in the field of work with the blind; blind students; those blind people who are hunting employment and those who have employment (the teachers, the lawyers, the factory workers, the vending operators, the office employees, the farmers, the day laborers)--volunteers from every level of society, from every ethnic background, from every kind of employment, and from every cultural setting. As we assemble in the largest gathering of blind people that will take place anywhere in our country this year (probably the largest that has ever taken place in the history of the world), our dedication is strong; our purpose is unified; and our mood is harmonious.
A few weeks before this convention, the television program "Jeopardy!" asked us to verify that the National Federation of the Blind initiated White Cane Safety Day. This day was first established in 1964 by Congressional resolution, which had been introduced at the request of the National Federation of the Blind to encourage official public recognition of the white cane as a symbol of the right of blind people to be fully independent and to be an equal part of the community. National White Cane Safety Day and the National Federation of the Blind, we were told, would be included in the questioning on the "Jeopardy!" program. The white cane has sometimes been regarded as a mark of inferiority rather than an emblem of independence. The National Federation of the Blind is the vehicle for gaining acceptance and recognition of this independence, and our message is being carried, even on the "Jeopardy!" program.
It is vital that an in-depth understanding of the real meaning of blindness be internalized in the thinking of society. Our publications, especially our Kernel Books--What Color is the Sun, As the Twig Is Bent, The Freedom Bell, Making Hay, The Journey, Standing on One Foot, and soon When the Blizzard Blows-- are among the most powerful tools that have ever been created for illustrating the innate normality and ability of blind people. Not all families in the United States have one of our Kernel Books, but an increasing number do. Since our last convention we have distributed over four hundred thousand of them-- approximately fifty million pages of information about what we are and what we are doing. Blindness is not the crippling malady that many people think it is. Our Kernel Books are disseminating a positive understanding about blindness.
The Kernel Books are not our only method of public education. There are the radio and television spots which we have transmitted by satellite to thousands of stations this year for broadcast to the homes of an estimated hundred million people. There are the news and information programs on television which have featured prominently the work of the National Federation of the Blind, including NBC's "Today Show." Our television appearances have numbered more than fifteen hundred in the last twelve months. There have also been more than five thousand newspaper articles about us.
Paul Kay is a lawyer in Washington, D.C., and a dedicated member and supporter of the Federation. He and I were interviewed on the Larry King radio program last winter about the programs of the Federation and our efforts to gain equal opportunity.
For most of recorded history blindness has been synonymous with disadvantage, isolation, and inability to compete. However, we are changing that mistaken image one article, one mailing, one book, one public service announcement, one television appearance, one radio program, and one daily life of a Federationist at a time. The combined impact of all of this public education is immeasurable and sweeping. The new understanding throughout the nation is not yet complete, but we are getting there.
More and more the influence of the National Federation of the Blind is being felt not only in the United States but in other parts of the world as well. A letter which came to us this spring requests permission to translate into the Russian language Dr. Kenneth Jernigan's banquet address entitled "Blindness: The Pattern of Freedom." This request came from the City Library for the Blind of St. Petersburg, Russia. If you want to know about the real meaning of blindness, look for our literature in the libraries. From Boise to Baltimore, from San Francisco to St. Petersburg, you can look us up in the library.
Dr. Kenneth Jernigan serves as President Emeritus of the National Federation of the Blind and President of the North America/Caribbean Region of the World Blind Union. Our participation in international meetings during the past year has provided unprecedented opportunities for interaction with organizations of and for the blind and with blind individuals throughout the world.
At a meeting of the World Blind Union Executive Committee in Melbourne, Australia, held earlier this year, Dr. Jernigan learned that the birthplace of Louis Braille, the blind Frenchman who invented the Braille system more than a hundred and fifty years ago, had been closed to the public because of needed repairs. This historic structure, now a museum, must be saved. Louis Braille gave us literacy, which opened to our minds the great panoply of learning. Joining people and organizations from many parts of the world, we in the United States committed ourselves to provide leadership and financial support in the restoration of the museum. Dr. and Mrs. Jernigan traveled to Coupvray, France, to visit the Louis Braille home to examine the condition of the building and to discuss renovations. They carried with them the initial gift from the blind of the United States--$10,000.
Dr. Jernigan stood on the threshold of the Louis Braille home and spoke for the blind of the United States. While he was there, in the place where the system of writing for the blind was invented, he reached back in spirit to touch the events of a former time--to be at one with the creator of the Braille system- -and he reached forward to a time when Braille literacy will be available not only for five or ten or fifteen percent of blind people, but for all of us. The commitment that we reaffirmed forty miles outside of Paris in Coupvray, France, is that we will never forget our heritage. We will never relinquish the right of the blind to meaningful education, the right to full participation in society, the right to equality--in short, the right to read.
Several years ago we initiated a nationwide Braille literacy campaign, which continues today. We drafted model legislation which declares that blind students have the right to learn Braille and that the school systems everywhere in the country must provide both Braille textbooks and instruction in Braille whenever this is warranted. Furthermore, textbook publishers wishing to sell materials in print to the school systems are required to provide an electronic copy of the text in a format that can be used by the school system to produce the book in Braille. Comprehensive Braille literacy statutes sponsored and promoted by the National Federation of the Blind have been adopted this year in New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Ohio, Georgia, and Colorado. This brings the number of states that have Braille literacy laws to twenty-five. We continue to fight for the introduction and passage of these bills, and we will not rest until every state has adopted our model law.
Braille literacy legislation was adopted in Wisconsin in 1992, but the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (along with a number of teachers of the blind who said they represented the Wisconsin Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired), decided to nullify the law by regulation. Although the clear language of the statute declares that teachers of the blind must be able to demonstrate their competence in reading and writing Braille, the proposed regulations to implement the law said otherwise. Teachers of the blind could receive certification, these proposed rules said, without demonstrating the ability to read and write Braille. A passing grade in a college course that dealt with the subject of Braille would be enough.
The blind were not buying it. We could not be bamboozled. Those who are supposed to teach Braille must know it. Led by Bonnie Peterson, the able President of the National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin, the blind of that state gathered to protest. Members of the legislature were contacted; testimony was prepared; articles were written; and the experiences of blind men and women who had been denied the opportunity to learn Braille were recounted. On June 3, 1994, the regulations were finally completed. Those who seek certification as teachers of the blind in Wisconsin will be required to take and pass the National Literary Braille Competency Test administered by the Library of Congress. This would not have happened without the efforts of the organized blind. We know Braille works; we want the teachers of the blind in Wisconsin and elsewhere to know it too. And we intend to have something to say about what is in the curriculum.
Our Braille Literacy Training program is a joint effort between the National Federation of the Blind and the American Printing House for the Blind. In this program we are developing teaching materials which incorporate the experience of competent educators and literate blind persons. Those lessons go beyond the formal academic setting to our daily lives. Although an eminently sensible idea, this approach to the study of Braille is completely novel. Sometimes blind people have taught each other to read. Sometimes teachers of the blind have done it. In our Braille Literacy Training program, the teachers and the blind are working cooperatively, both in the teaching of the skill and in the development of the materials to be used in the classes. Is there any doubt that expanded literacy for blind readers will be the result? Of course not.
In 1991 the first U.S./Canada Conference on Technology for the Blind was convened at the National Center for the Blind. It was an historic meeting because, for the first time, every major organization of and for the blind in the United States and Canada participated. Hosted by the National Federation of the Blind, the Second U.S./Canada Conference on Technology for the Blind occurred in the fall of 1993. This meeting was even more far- reaching than the first had been. Cooperative interaction among producers of technology, service providers, and blind consumers stimulates accelerated development of new products and innovative technology for the blind. The Second U.S./Canada Conference on Technology for the Blind was an overwhelming success, and we are pleased to have been able to host and chair it. Its value can be seen in both the new attitudes and the new technology that are now emerging.
The proceedings of this conference were printed in the January, 1994, issue of the Braille Monitor, which has received broad distribution. One indication of the value of this conference is contained in a letter from the Executive Officer of the United States District Court for the Central District of California to the Assistant Director of the Administrative Office for the entire federal court system. The letter says:
The enclosed magazine, titled Braille Monitor, is a publication of the National Federation of the Blind. A management analyst from the Bankruptcy Court, Donovan Cooper, sent me a copy of the publication. The contents focus on the subject of twenty-first-century technology for the blind.
I thought you might wish to share this publication with appropriate members of your division staff that might be called upon to address hardware/technology issues for special needs court personnel.
Besides being a very talented statistician [the letter continues], Mr. Cooper is extraordinarily active in the blind community and knowledgeable of the issues challenging the non-sighted in the work force.
Mr. Cooper would be an excellent court resource if the need arises.
This letter shows what can be done when we use the resources that we have. Throughout the entire administrative structure of the federal court system, the resource in matters dealing with blindness is the organized blind movement, the National Federation of the Blind.
In conjunction with the Second U.S./Canada Conference on Technology for the Blind, we opened the newly renovated and expanded International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind. After this major upgrade, the IBTC consists of a main display hall two-and-a-half times as large as the area previously used, an office for the director, ten additional offices, conference facilities, a kitchen, a pantry, space for a museum, an office for the museum director, and a maintenance area. The construction in the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind is typical of what we have done and continue to do at the National Center for the Blind. The interior walls are over six inches thick, made of paneling over heavy-duty dry wall for extra strength. In this one operation we used 33,728 square feet of paneling and over a hundred thousand pounds of dry wall.
The main display hall of the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind, which is truly the gem of the renovated area, has a number of custom-designed features. More than sixteen hundred square feet of built-in desk-top space is available to display the technology. Forty-four electrical circuits feed over six hundred different outlets for the approximately one hundred and seventy-five technological products now on display.
We have installed thirty-one new products and upgraded thirty-five others this year. These include five Braille embossers, six Braille translators, six speech synthesizers, sixteen screen review programs (three of which are for Microsoft Windows), five refreshable Braille displays, two money identifiers, one color identifier, two telecommunications devices for the deaf-blind, one note taker, six stand-alone reading machines or PC-based reading systems, a number of software packages, and several new computers to operate these devices, as well as associated peripherals, cables, connectors, and related material.
I emphasize that all of what I have mentioned has been added during the past year. It is in addition to the main body of technology that we already had in place. The added value of this new technology represents a great deal of money, but it represents an even greater asset to the blind of our country and the world. The replacement cost for our technological products is approaching two million dollars. This, of course, does not count the value of the structural upgrade, the furniture, and the built-in desks and circuitry.
When we opened the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind in 1990 on our fiftieth birthday, we undertook a tremendous task. We said that we would get and keep current a truly awesome collection of technology. We would provide (for examination, study, and evaluation) at least one of every device for producing hard copy and refreshable Braille being made anywhere in the world, and we would do the same for speech-producing devices. We would do likewise for reading machines that would convert the printed page to spoken words, and we would also keep current on other devices, such as money identifiers, communication devices for the deaf-blind, and calculators.
The pledge that we made to ourselves and the world in 1990 has been kept. No other comparable collection of technology has ever been assembled, and regardless of the cost we will continue the program and keep the technology current. The International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind serves as a testing and learning center for manufacturers of devices for the blind, for educators and administrators, for governmental officials, for employers, for the general public, and (by no means least) for the blind themselves both here and abroad. Technology is being built. We will collect it; we will help design it; we will help distribute it; and we will work to see that it truly serves the needs of the blind--the purpose for which it was created in the first place.
Our computer bulletin board service, NFB NET, continues to expand. More than 8,000 calls were made to the board during the past year. Approximately 500 new users registered with the service. Discussions of blindness and the National Federation of the Blind are not only carried on NFB NET but are also distributed through our bulletin board service to almost 250 other bulletin boards. In addition to the Braille Monitor, Future Reflections, and a wide variety of other NFB literature, our bulletin board carries substantial collections of computer information, electronic magazines, reference materials, computer programs, and electronic copies of classical literature. Some of the books we have on the bulletin board are the writings of Aristotle, Aristophanes, Confucius, Shakespeare, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Rice Burrows, and Mark Twain. To handle all of this information we have increased our telephone lines and obtained a new, faster computer, with lots of memory and multi-gigabytes.
Because we are the organized blind, we serve as a watchdog over programs for the blind. At times this role causes certain agencies and institutions to feel uneasiness, or worse. However, more and more of the agencies in the blindness field are coming to recognize the positive value of this function and are working with us. Cooperation is growing among agencies and organizations dealing with the blind. In March of this year Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, our President Emeritus and the most prolific writer and brilliant philosopher in the field of work with the blind, was invited to make a keynote address to the American Foundation for the Blind's Josephine Taylor Leadership Institute. This invitation is one more indication of the shifting emphasis and balances in the blindness field. It is a signpost on the road of progress which we are traveling. Not all of the disagreements between the organized blind and the agencies serving the blind are at an end, but there is now a mechanism for handling disagreements and a climate to make it possible.
Along these lines it should be noted that we went with three other groups last fall to meet with Judy Heumann, the newly appointed Assistant Secretary of Education for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. The meeting was harmonious and resulted in positive outcomes. It is illustrative of an increasing number of joint activities that we are undertaking.
There have been many legal cases this year. Our files indicate that in the course of our history we have assisted blind people in over eleven hundred legal matters. A number of them were actively pursued during the last twelve months.
Carol Ducote has served as an assistant principal at Brunswick High School in Glynn County, Georgia, for eight years. She became blind during the 1992-93 school year but continued to perform her duties. Evaluations of her performance indicate that she is competent at handling her job.
A year ago Carol Ducote was told by the school district superintendent not to return to work in the fall of 1993 because she was blind. The superintendent's directive was, of course, a violation of the law. The school system had offered this blind teacher a contract for the 1993-94 school year, and she intended to fulfil it. Carol Ducote contacted leaders of the National Federation of the Blind of Georgia, and we in the National Office also assisted with the case. At a meeting in mid-November last fall, we told the school board that their choices were simple-- either Carol Ducote could be returned to her position as an assistant principal, or the National Federation of the Blind would go with her to federal court. The school board did not take long to make up its mind. Within a week Carol Ducote was back at work. She completed her assignments for the school year that has just ended, and she has signed a new contract for the one that is about to begin. Blindness didn't stop her, and we didn't let prejudice stop her either.
Richard Stanley had been a police officer for the city of Winter Haven, Florida, before he lost his sight. Although he had become blind in the line of duty, he was denied disability benefits through the police department because the officers in charge of disability payments concluded that Richard Stanley was not blind. The evidence for this conclusion is contained on a videotape which shows Richard Stanley trimming his shrubbery. Blind people, so the argument went, cannot trim shrubbery, so Richard Stanley must be faking it. We explained the facts to the pension board and assisted in gathering evidence to establish the nature of the injury that resulted in disability. Richard Stanley is now receiving benefits, and he can trim his shrubbery in peace.
For several years Geneva Teagarden worked at Foley's department store in Fort Worth, Texas. A year ago, before she became blind, Geneva Teagarden had been one of the most valuable employees at Foley's. When she reported her blindness to store management, they asked her to retire. But Geneva Teagarden did not want to retire. She felt that she had much to contribute, but she needed training in the alternative skills of blindness. We helped her arrange for the Texas Commission for the Blind to send her to our Louisiana Center for the Blind, where she is presently a student. We also assisted her to secure a leave of absence. She can return to her job at Foley's in December. The training is essential, but so is the job, and so is the part played by the National Federation of the Blind. Geneva Teagarden is succeeding because of the collective efforts of all of us, because of the National Federation of the Blind.
Eric Baenen is a twenty-nine-year-old blind man living in North Dakota. He has been trying for many years to get financial assistance from the state rehabilitation agency to help him go to college. Last winter, when his plans for attending school were disapproved because the rehabilitation agency told him there was only money for priority cases and that he wasn't one, he contacted the National Federation of the Blind to find out what could be done. On a Friday afternoon we communicated with the North Dakota office of rehabilitation to insist that the long years of waiting come to an end. By the following Monday the decision of the agency had changed. Eric Baenen received his chance to go to school with full funding for tuition and related services.
In the name of providing equal access to education, a number of universities have established an office for assisting disabled students. Sheila Ritchhart (formerly Sheila Hall) discovered while she was attending Indiana University that she could not make her own arrangements for taking tests, planning schedules, and arranging for readers. The office for disabled students did that, she was told. And in addition this office routinely scheduled special psychological examinations for blind students as a part of the intake process. Sheila objected to having the disabled students' office arrange her life for her, and she most certainly objected to having to take special and extra psychological tests. But the people who ran the disabled students' office told her that they knew best.
When, however, it became clear to decision makers at the University that the National Federation of the Blind was involved, attitudes changed. Sheila Ritchhart reports that the custodial policies have been dropped, not only for her but for others as well. Blind students now attend their classes and take their tests without interference, and there are no special psychological examinations because of blindness. As a tangible demonstration of the responsiveness of Indiana University, officials from the Office of Adaptive Educational Services, including the director, Pamela King, are with us at this convention--and so is Sheila Ritchhart.
Last year I reported to you on the case of Henrietta Brewer, a blind child-care provider living here in Michigan. When she applied to the Michigan Department of Social Services for a license to provide child care, the application was denied-- because blind people (they said) cannot safely provide this service. With our help Henrietta Brewer filed a complaint, charging the licensing department with discrimination. The Justice Department has now issued its decision. The denial of the day-care license violated federal law. Blind people can care for children. Henrietta Brewer knows it; we know it; the Justice Department knows it; and the Michigan Department of Social Services is learning it.
In the fall of 1992 Monica Horodenski, a blind student, was finishing her work for a teaching degree at Edinboro University in Pennsylvania. One of the requirements for the degree is successful student teaching. The supervising professor for student teaching failed Monica Horodenski because the professor believed that a blind teacher could not assure the safety of the students in the class or adequately supervise them. All other courses were completed satisfactorily. The only bar to the teaching license was this one student teaching course. We have assisted Monica Horodenski with an appeal. The matter has now been resolved. Monica Horodenski will have the opportunity to demonstrate her competence in a setting which will measure her abilities without prejudice. Edinboro University will pay the tab, not only for the student teaching course but also for her living arrangements. She will have the chance to succeed or fail according to her ability, her ingenuity, and her willingness to work. That is all she asks. That is all we ask. It is all we ever ask for. It is all we want, in this or any other case. I have every confidence that Monica Horodenski will get her teaching credential.
Four years ago Scott LaBarre, Curtis Chong, and several other Federationists in Minnesota decided to challenge the so- called safety policies of Valleyfair Amusement Park, which declared that blind visitors must be accompanied by a responsible adult or be denied boarding on the rides and access to many areas of the park. A responsible adult, according to Valleyfair Amusement Park, is anybody who is at least four feet tall, as long as that person can see. In most places being an adult means attaining the age of majority--twenty-one, or at least eighteen. But not at Valleyfair. Age has nothing to do with it--it is length that matters. Four feet tall, and you're in. Do they measure them with or without their shoes, I wonder?
A complaint was filed with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, and the decision has now been rendered. The Valleyfair policy concerning blind people exists no more. We are welcome to visit the park and to ride the rides on the same terms and conditions as others. There are no longer any special rules or procedures for the blind. The four-foot theory has been abandoned. Because of the work of the National Federation of the Blind, Valleyfair Amusement Park is a good deal more amusing and a lot more fair.
About fifteen years ago the National Federation of the Blind introduced white canes for blind children. Although it had been the popular wisdom in rehabilitation circles that cane travel should be taught only to adults, canes for children soon became extremely popular--because they work. In the fall of 1992 the parents of Linda Perez Delker asked school officials in South Dakota to teach cane travel to their seven-year-old blind daughter. Officials responded that this was not appropriate, that a pre-cane travel aid should be used, and that Linda Perez Delker would not be permitted to have a cane with her at school. The Delkers requested an independent evaluation, but the school district refused.
This did not stop the Delkers. They know Karen Mayry, President of the National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota, and they have become part of the Federation family. A Federation member provided private lessons to Linda. Prior to her using a white cane, Linda would not venture off the front porch. After she had learned to use it, this little girl traveled independently outside her home both on her parents' property and in public places. Yet she was refused the opportunity to carry her cane at school, to use it on the school grounds, or to receive further instruction. We helped with the appeal, and the decision has now been reached. The independent evaluation has been completed. It shows that Linda should be using a white cane. This blind student will be receiving the cane travel instruction she needs in school because of the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind.
We have assisted a number of blind vendors during the year. Two years ago Paul Howard, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Indiana, was operating a vending facility at the main post office in Gary. In September of 1992 he was summarily ordered by the state rehabilitation agency to leave the facility because post office officials had requested his removal. There was no hearing, no discussion, no negotiation--just an order. With our help Paul Howard filed a complaint. The law is clear. A state agency is prohibited from removing a vendor unless there is just cause, and even then it cannot be done unless there has been a hearing to evaluate the rights of the vendor. The Paul Howard case took more than two years, but it has come to an end. The State of Indiana paid for improperly removing Paul Howard from the vending facility. In the meantime he has become a teacher in the Gary public schools, but he received the back pay which he had been denied--all $10,728.95 of it.
On several previous occasions I have reported on the Dennis Groshel case. He operates a vending facility located at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in St. Cloud, Minnesota. Although the Randolph-Sheppard Act grants to blind vendors an unequivocal priority to operate vending facilities on federal property, officials at the veterans hospital attempted to dismiss Dennis Groshel from the vending facility because he would not pay almost fifty percent of his income to the hospital. Working with the Minnesota attorney general's office, the Minnesota rehabilitation agency, and Dennis Groshel, we took legal steps to prevent this injustice. At each step in the proceedings, we received favorable rulings, but the Department of Veterans Affairs continued to balk.
On March 11, 1994, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled decisively on the Groshel case. The Randolph-Sheppard Act, they said, does apply to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in St. Cloud. Dennis Groshel is secure in his vending facility. This decision also applies to many other veterans medical centers. It is likely that the ruling of the court will be precedent-setting for the nation. This ruling has already been followed in an arbitration in Maryland. The decision of the arbitration panel was unanimous. Blind vendors are entitled to a priority in the operation of vending facilities in the veterans hospitals. It will not surprise you to learn that one of the arbitration panel members is also a member of the National Federation of the Blind.
In this past year we have continued to help blind people with Social Security claims. Marc Graff is a blind person living in Oregon. Three years ago he applied for Social Security disability benefits, but his claim was rejected because officials said he had not met eligibility requirements. However, these officials had not applied the special rules for the blind. The President of the National Federation of the Blind of Oregon, Carla McQuillan, with assistance from the National Office represented Marc Graff. In a hearing before an administrative law judge, she insisted that the special rules for blind applicants be applied. Marc Graff is now receiving monthly disability benefits, and he has received a back pay award of $34,764.20.
We continue to welcome visitors to the National Center for the Blind. The questions we are asked and the information we provide help to instill a greater understanding of blindness and bring a wider range of opportunity to blind people. More than twelve hundred people visited the National Center for the Blind this year, including visitors from Australia, Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, Cyprus, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Mongolia, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, Singapore, Slovak Republic, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, Tobago, Uganda, and Ukraine.
There are also the ongoing activities of the Federation. We publish in print, in Braille, and in recorded form more literature about blindness than anyone else in the nation. In our recording studio we produce the master tapes for our magazines-- the Braille Monitor, Future Reflections, the Voice of the Diabetic, and a number of other publications. To ensure high quality for these publications, we have upgraded the recording equipment with a computer-driven studio audio digital editor. This is a word-processing system for sound. It can handle eight different tracks at one time. The computer screen displays the sound as a series of lines. Errors can be eliminated electronically; noise can be reduced; and alterations in volume, frequency, and pitch can be made by reshaping the lines. This is the same system being used by the British Broadcasting Company, Voice of America, and a number of music studios in Nashville.
From our Materials Center we have continued to distribute aids, appliances, and materials. There are now over 400 different kinds of aids and appliances and over 800 different publications. Included in these items are extra-long carbon fiber canes--up to sixty-nine inches; jackets and t-shirts bearing the name and logo of the National Federation of the Blind; all of our Kernel Books; our general information publication, If Blindness Comes, which is the most comprehensive quick reference guide regarding blindness now available; our general information publication for the parents of blind children, Future Reflections, Introductory Issue; and a collection of special Christmas recordings. We are producing our catalogs of literature, and aids and appliances in large print, in Braille, and on computer disk. Within the last year we have shipped from the Materials Center two million separate items with a total weight of more than thirty-one tons.
Through our Job Opportunities for the Blind Program (JOB) we continue to assist blind people in finding employment. Because of our efforts more than a hundred blind people who were not employed last year are now reporting for work. The jobs of those who have been hired range from accountant to administrative assistant, from bill collector to busboy, from teacher to tool grinder--and all of them are above the minimum wage.
Many thousands of calls come to the National Office of the Federation each year. Most are what might be called routine, but some are of special significance. Just before our last convention we received a series of calls from Connecticut. A child, Aaron McCullon, had been born to a blind couple, Tammy and Jim McCullon. But the baby was premature and small enough that he must wear a heart monitor. The blind parents requested information about how to handle the situation. The infant's grandmother called to ask about techniques used by blind parents. Officials at the hospital where the baby was born wanted to know whether blind parents can competently care for children-- especially premature children. These officials at the hospital thought that the baby should be kept in the medical center to ensure proper care. If the baby were sent home, they believed that either a full-time nurse or the child's grandparents should, perhaps, live with the McCullons.
As it happens, this situation is not new. In 1984 my wife Patricia and I became the parents of a premature infant, David Patrick. He needed a heart monitor. When David Patrick was born, hospital officials wondered if we, his blind parents, Patricia and I, had the ability to care for him--a tiny, premature infant. We did--and we have. Our experience and understanding from the 1980's helped these blind parents in the 1990's. Aaron McCullon received his heart monitor and wore it home. His parents were the ones to bring him and to give him the care he needed. The heartache and pain of family separation never happened. The support, the information, and the encouragement that these parents needed were readily provided. We in the National Federation of the Blind showed the officials at the hospital that blind parents have as much ability to care for their children as sighted parents. Having the right to raise our families--this, too, is why we have organized.
As I consider the activities of the National Federation of the Blind during the past year, I have every confidence in our future. The problems we face are many--gaining an education, finding recognition, attaining equal treatment, changing the negative attitudes of the public about blindness, and finding enough money to finance it all. All of these demand our attention. Our goal is nothing short of altering the beliefs and modifying the behavior of the entire society. The administrators of programs for the blind, the educators, the hospital officials, the government personnel, and the sighted public must come to accept a new belief and a new understanding.
And we must accept it too--we who are blind. We must grow in it, embrace it, and live it with increasing fullness every day. The task ahead of us is monumental. But so is our need and so is our determination. We have a pact with each other, you as members and I as President. You have the right to expect from me that I will give all that I possess in the way of ability and work and commitment to this organization; that I will stand in the front line where danger threatens and not ask you to take more risks than I am prepared to take or make more sacrifices than I am willing to make; that I will lead with firmness, make decisions, and stand by those decisions. And I have the right to expect certain things from you--your work to make our programs possible, your unified support to give our policies strength and credibility, and your trust to make my presidency viable. These things we have the right to expect from each other; but there is something more, something which cannot be demanded but which is the essential ingredient that makes us what we are, that binds us together as a family, a movement, and a power. It is the love and care we have for each other. Let us lose that love, and we lose more than political strength. We lose our organizational soul, our right to be called a movement. But let us keep our love for each other, and no force on earth can stand against us. And, of course, we will keep it.
We have kept faith with the founders of our movement and with the tens of thousands of members who have joined through the decades. We have pledged to support each other, and we have promised that the commitment and dedication which come to us from those who have made this organization what it is will remain unshakable. No matter what comes, I know as surely as I know the members of this organization that we will find the strength, gather the resources, and muster the spirit to meet the challenge. I am absolutely certain that we will gain equality and go the rest of the way to freedom. This is the meaning of the National Federation of the Blind. And this is my report to you for 1994.
[Photo: Joe Cutter stands holding microphone, with Sharon Maneki in background. Caption: Joe Cutter responds after being presented with the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award.]
[Photo: Joe Sullivan stands at the podium holding a plaque, with Betty Niceley in the background. Caption: Joe Sullivan receives the Golden Keys Award presented by Betty Niceley, President of the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille.]
[Photo: Doris Johnson stands holding a plaque, with Dr. Jernigan on her right and Mr. Maurer on her left. Caption: Doris Johnson receives congratulations from Dr. Jernigan and President Maurer after being presented with the NFB's Distinguished Service Award.]
[Photo: Homer Page shakes hands with Dr. Jernigan and Mr. Maurer stands with his arm around Dr. Page. Caption: Dr. Jernigan and President Maurer congratulate Dr. Homer Page as he receives the Jacobus tenBroek Award.]
FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
AWARDS FOR 1994
National Federation of the Blind awards are not bestowed lightly. If an appropriate recipient does not emerge from the pool of candidates for a particular award, it is simply not presented. At this year's convention four presentations were made:
The Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award
At the Sunday morning Board of Directors meeting Sharon Maneki, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland and Chairwoman of the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Selection Committee, presented that award. She said:
Good morning, fellow Federationists. We are truly changing what it means to be blind in the field of education. Gone are the days when students had to wait until high school, as many of us did, to get a white cane. The days when young blind children are taught to trail walls, slide their feet, shuffle, are still here, but they're going. And they are going because of the National Federation of the Blind, and they're going because of the recipient of this year's award.
Many of us already know this recipient because of his work as an orientation and mobility instructor. He works for the New Jersey Commission for the Blind. He is in his twenty-fourth year of teaching. While he works for the Commission, he really works for the interests of children. He has been working at this convention. Many of us have met him in the Parents Division and in the various workshops that he has conducted. Ladies and gentlemen, the selection committee of Allen Harris, Fred Schroeder, Jacquilyn Billey, Joyce Scanlan, and me are truly pleased and honored to present Joe Cutter as the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children.[applause] I'd like to present Mr. Cutter with a plaque, which I would like to read.
Congratulations, Mr. Cutter.[applause] And, of course, we have one more important thing to present you. This is a check for $500.[applause]
After Mr. Cutter accepted his plaque, he said:
This is a beautiful plaque, and it's a generous award. It's an honor to receive this award from the National Federation of the Blind. I have come to respect this organization for its clear information, its positive thinking, its can-do approach. Blind persons have provided me as a sighted person a quality education about blindness. In New Jersey I've had the opportunity over the years to learn from blind children and their parents. For example, parents like Carol Castellano and Bill Cucco truly exemplify the philosophy of the NFB in their day-to-day lives-- equality, opportunity, and security. And with them and their children Serena and John, and the other parents and other blind children in New Jersey, I have learned; and somehow there is a correlation between becoming a learner and being a better teacher. Sometimes, as an itinerant going from homes to school, traveling in my car, it can be a bit lonely and precarious when you are traveling "the road less traveled."
I accept this award, its support, and encouragement for me to continue to travel this road, and I look forward in partnership with blind children, their parents, and the National Federation of the Blind to continuing to give the best I can offer. Thank you.
The Golden Keys Award
Near the close of the Wednesday afternoon session President Maurer called forward Betty Niceley, President of the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille. Betty then made the following presentation:
At this convention the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille, a division of the NFB, is celebrating its tenth birthday.[applause] As part of that celebration NAPUB is presenting its second Golden Keys Award. Our recipient this year has devoted his professional life to the study of Braille and the development of computer programs that translate print into Grade II Braille. He has developed the world's leading Grade II translator of English Braille. He has developed translators for Arabic, Hebrew, French, and Spanish, just to mention a few of the languages and dialects. Such contributions are making it possible for Braille to be produced much less expensively, and we can have a lot more of it all over the world.
His lifetime of experience has given a profound and deep knowledge of Braille which serves us well. The International Council on English Braille conducts a project, and its objective is to eliminate the confusion resulting from a plethora of partially compatible codes by developing a unified Braille code that would be used throughout the English-speaking world. Because of our recipient's deep knowledge of Braille, he was asked to chair this committee. As such, he developed a process for a continuing and ongoing meeting to be held via Internet, which means that he must continually monitor what's happening and also write the summary reports for all committee members. His profound knowledge of Braille and his unflagging dedication to its improvement have gone a long way toward making an increased supply of Braille available to blind people all over the world. He has donated his time, his energy, his knowledge, and his talent of leadership to a degree that can only be classified as self-sacrifice. These are only a few of the reasons why NAPUB presents the 1994 Golden Keys Award to..., and we're extremely happy to do this, and we're grateful for the time to do it, Dr. Jernigan and Mr. Maurer. The plaque reads:
When he arrived at the microphone, Joe Sullivan responded by saying:
Thank you very much, Ms. Niceley, for your kind words and to all of you for this great honor. I must realistically share it with many people, too many to name; but I would like to name one- -my wife Genevieve for thirty years. For the last twenty she has provided essential and (I might say patient) support to our work. I would also, in general, like to thank so many of you who have shared with me your deep knowledge of Braille and your well- placed passion for this important technology. What else invented in the early 1800's is still so vital today? To you, I'd like to say this, that you have made this work not just work, but actually a lot of fun, as well. Thank you very much.[applause]
Distinguished Service Award
During the Wednesday evening banquet two awards were presented. The first was the rarely presented Distinguished Service Award, and Dr. Jernigan made the presentation. He said:
A lot of you may not even know Doris Johnson because she is self-effacing and doesn't push herself forward. Doris was born and raised in South Carolina, the second of nineteen children-- all with the same parents if anybody wants to know. She has always been a hard worker. She worked her way through high school by cleaning the principal's house before classes every morning. She then caught the train and went to school. After getting home, she would work in the fields until dark. (Her parents were share croppers.) After it was too dark to work outside, she would study for school the next day.
After high school Doris went to Baltimore, where she worked her way through Morgan State University, graduating with a degree in home economics in 1956. She has always been active in her church and was the secretary of the church Sunday school for many years. While teaching at a Baltimore beauty and barber college, Doris earned the outstanding teacher of the year award on two separate occasions. She also helped prepare many students for their state licensing examinations. For many years Doris went to Montebello State Hospital in Baltimore and did the patients' hair as a volunteer.
Let me turn now to Doris's work with the Federation. Because she is quiet and unassuming, few people know how much she does. She does over a thousand hours of volunteer work every year at the National Center for the Blind. (Allen Harris says that there are a lot of people who have high-paying jobs who don't work that much.) She does everything from erasing tapes and labeling cassettes to manning (or, if you like, "womaning") NFB booths at local events. In the kitchen she is invaluable. She comes early and stays late, until the last dish is done. When there is a seminar or a meeting of any other kind, Doris is always willing to help in whatever way she is needed.
Doris, you exemplify the spirit of our movement, the best that is in us, and the essence of service to others. I have here a brass plaque on polished walnut wood that I want to present to you. It is the tangible manifestation of the love we have for you and the appreciation of what you are and what you do.
After Doris accepted her plaque, she said:
Thank you so very much. I am so surprised--I want to thank everybody, and one thing I want to say to you is my parents have always told us to be faithful to your word, and whatever you commit yourself to do, then do the best you can. You don't ever know who's watching you. I just want to thank you.
The Jacobus tenBroek Award
Dr. Fred Schroeder, Chairman of the Jacobus tenBroek Award committee, then came to the podium to present that award. This is what he said:
It is a genuine honor for me this evening to present the Jacobus tenBroek Award. Let me begin by thanking the members of the 1994 selection committee: Allen Harris, Joyce Scanlan, Ramona Walhof, and James Omvig. There is, of course, no greater honor within the National Federation of the Blind than to be selected for the Jacobus tenBroek Award. Jacobus tenBroek was our founder. He was the one who had the capacity to envisage for the blind a future of equal status with the sighted. With his intellect and his vigor, he began the process of translating our dream into action. In 1940 Dr. tenBroek met with representatives from seven states and created the means by which blind people could work collectively toward first-class status.
The 1994 recipient of the Jacobus tenBroek Award is an individual who in his own right has demonstrated the same capacity to dream of true freedom for the blind and translate this belief into action. He is an individual who in his own right stands out as a leader in the organized blind movement. He is a man of great integrity, a man of conviction, and a man with the ability to inspire hope in others. The 1994 recipient of the Jacobus tenBroek Award is Dr. Homer Page.[prolonged applause]
All of you know Dr. Page is the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado. For many years he has chaired our Affiliate Action Committee, which requires tireless work and is, of course, key to our National Conventions' running smoothly. In 1987 he was one of the individuals who helped found our center in Colorado, the Colorado Center for the Blind. Since its inception he has served as the chairman of its Board of Directors. He also serves as the chairman of the Board of the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind and also for the Boulder County Center for People with Disabilities. He also serves as the chairperson of the Boulder County Commission, an elected position, which reflects the high esteem in which he is held by his community.
I've only listed the things of which he is chairman. He is involved in many other things. Dr. Page holds a Ph.D. in social and political ethics and serves as a member of the faculty at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He is an individual with great talent and compassion. He is an individual, of course, deserving the highest honor we, the organized blind, can bestow--the Jacobus tenBroek Award. The plaque which I will now present reads as follows:
When Dr. Page came to the microphone, he responded by saying:
Dr. Schroeder, I want to thank you and the committee and everyone who had something to do with this. The Jacobus tenBroek Award is one that I've listened to as it's been presented over the years, and I've thought, "That's something some day I would really be honored to receive." I didn't have any idea it would really happen. I remember when my dear friends, Ray and Diane McGeorge, received this award. It really is an award given to people who work, and I'm surprised that it was me. But it is an award that the organization gives to the people who care and love and live in the organization. It is such an honor to receive it. I want to thank all of you very much for thinking of me in this way. Thank you.[applause]
[Photo: Dr. Fred Schroeder reads Braille from the podium. Caption: Dr. Fred Schroeder, newly named Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Commission, addresses the Tuesday morning Convention session.]
PREPARING FOR EMERGING CHALLENGES AND PARTNERSHIPS
by Fredric K. Schroeder
This address was delivered at the 1994 Convention of the National Federation of the Blind on Tuesday, July 5.
The movement of a people toward first-class status is a process, not an event. The challenges of tomorrow are very often the challenges of today, and indeed the challenges of yesterday. The move toward social equality is an evolution; and, with each new generation building on the experience of the last, we move farther along the continuum from social isolation to first-class status.
Two years ago at our National Convention in Charlotte, Dr. Jernigan described the shifting balances in the blindness field. For the first time we have come into an age when the blind themselves control the political influence and economic resources to breathe life into the dream of self-determination. Will true social equality be realized in the Federation's third generation? Or the fourth? Or the fifth? The answer will depend some on our ability, some on our commitment, and perhaps some on forces beyond our control. Nevertheless, laying "when" aside, we know with certainty that our goal will be reached. The events of yesterday and today are important parts of our history, toughening us and giving us perspective as we look to the future.
In 1967 Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, our founder and first leader, delivered his final banquet address at our National Convention in Los Angeles. In that address Dr. tenBroek looked back eleven years to an earlier convention in California to evaluate the progress we had made as a movement. In his address he said:
... The state of our relations with the agencies, at that turbulent point of our history, can be briefly characterized. It was a state of war. We were in fact the targets of concerted opposition--both nationally and within many of our affiliated states. The purpose of that attack was to break up the organized blind movement and return its members to the alienation, dependency, and disorganization of the status quo ante bellum-- that is, the good old days before the blind were organized.
Dr. tenBroek went on to say:
The private agencies and voluntary societies are very much in evidence, as powerful as they are visible. Are they our collaborators or our calumniators? When the agency official passes by, who goes there: friend or foe?
Now it is 1994 and the question is still as relevant today as when Dr. tenBroek posed it in 1967. "When the agency official passes by, who goes there: friend or foe?" And as in 1967 the answer today "remains qualified and doubtful."
Balances in the blindness field have shifted and continue to shift. Our momentum is undeniable and our progress unstoppable. For many years we pressed the rehabilitation establishment to join with us in correcting the eighty-percent unemployment rate among the blind, and now the 1992 Amendments to the Rehabilitation Act support our contention that the rehabilitation system exists to promote employment. For many years we spoke out against a failed system of rehabilitation training premised on outmoded beliefs about the incapacity of the blind. When the agencies would not respond, we the blind established our own training centers and successfully pushed for changes to the Rehabilitation Act ensuring a client's right of choice. We led the way in emphasizing the importance of Braille as the only true means to literacy for the blind.
In the education of blind children we led the way in drawing attention to the problems of mainstreaming and later full inclusion. We exposed a system that offered blind children a watered-down curriculum in exchange for desegregation and put forward the belief that integration and high expectations can and must work together. While not vilifying the residential schools, we have also resisted the temptation to romanticize their importance. For many children they have been effective vehicles for providing a good basic education. But as with other traditional programs for the blind all too often they have lacked the capacity to envisage a role of equal partnership for the blind. In employment and education we have been the ones with the courage and capacity to assert a new vision of blindness. As President Maurer told us last year:
Not all of the problems faced by the blind have been solved--far from it. But many have. Not all of the negative attitudes about us have been eradicated, but it is fair to say that all of them have been affected by our years of effort.
What accounts for our success? The unstoppable force of the organized blind movement is not simply the product of a group of people resisting oppression. We do not exist simply to respond to mistreatment. We exist to promote a new and positive philosophy of blindness. We believe in our right to live normal lives with dignity and equal opportunity. We share this belief and hence share the responsibility for making it come true.
When I was sixteen years old and became totally blind, I was entirely without hope. I envisaged a future of idleness, isolation, and dependency. I had neither the perspective nor the ability to free myself from this conception. The Federation gave me hope and the encouragement necessary to help me reshape what I believed about blindness. I was urged on by others until gradually I was able to believe in myself and believe in the promise of equal status for the blind. We do not simply resist oppression but promote a positive vision. Our leaders, who devoted themselves to building the Federation, were not compelled to do so by personal circumstances. Dr. tenBroek was a brilliant man, well educated, with a demanding career. Similarly, Dr. Jernigan and President Maurer are highly educated and professionally successful. Yet they all gave of themselves so that a newly blind sixteen-year-old, lying in a hospital bed in San Francisco, could have hope.
Here in this room today is a young man thirteen years old who in the past year began losing his sight. I do not know whether he is experiencing the same fear and despair I experienced as a teenager. I do know that he is here with us and therefore inside must have at least some kindling of hope. He has a right to live a full and normal life. In this room twenty-five hundred of us are ready to stand with him and assist him in obtaining the training and confidence he needs. He is our hope for the future, and we and those who came before us are his hope for the future. As Dr. Jernigan once told us:
We must never forget our history; we must never dishonor our heritage; we must never abandon our mission. With love for each other and faith in our hearts, we must go the rest of the way to equal status and first-class membership in society.
The challenges of tomorrow are the challenges of today and of yesterday. Those who came before us laid the foundation upon which we are building, and the next generation will take what we have achieved and move the blind closer still to the goal of real integration. We work with a clear sense of purpose. The tide has turned, and the balance has shifted. Today we are in a period which can be described as the blindness field's equivalent of Perestroika and Glasnost. As it is with nations, so it is in the blindness field. While restructuring and openness are publicly greeted with enthusiasm, old habits die hard, and neither side is anxious prematurely or disproportionately to weaken its own arsenal. Increasingly we are sought out for partnership and collaboration.
While this marks significant progress, it is difficult to greet this new day without a tinge of bitterness. Many of those who kept us down and kept us out would be our partners today. We should enter into partnerships when we can. Yet those who would be our partners must understand that we are not prepared to sell out our fundamental beliefs for the sake of getting along.
One area where we have been sought out for collaboration concerns architectural accessibility. For the most part we hold the view that it is better to train blind people to deal with the world as it is rather than altering the world according to someone else's conception of what the blind need. Accessibility for the blind is invariably cast in terms of the over-dramatized needs of a mythical blind person.
A good example of this problem has to do with elevator accessibility for the blind. At one time there was no Braille in elevators, yet somehow the blind managed to find their way. Later Braille became commonplace in elevators, and while not essential, it was undeniably useful. After all, there are print markings on elevator panels, and Braille markings provided a convenient way for a blind person to get the same information. As technology marched forward, talking elevators came along; and as with Braille they provided another convenient source of information by identifying the floor on which the elevator had stopped. But the designers and architects, acting on the conception of the mythical blind person, could not stop there.
Recently I stepped onto a new elevator with the latest accommodations for the blind. Braille marked the panel, and speech announced the floors. But beyond this the designers had added an innovation. When the elevator stopped, a voice announced, "Fourth floor, the doors are opening. "Fourth floor, the doors are opening." After a moment the elevator announced, "Do not attempt to enter; the doors are closing." "Do not attempt to enter; the doors are closing." While I need information, I do not require a mechanical custodian. I do not know any blind people who are so unaware as to require an announcement to know when the doors are opening. Nor do I know blind people who need a mechanical device to tell them not to enter when the doors are closing. This type of accommodation is no accommodation at all, but high tech paternalism. It is insulting to me and to every blind person I know.
We have been asked to collaborate in many ways. As you know, the Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER) has been the organization that certifies orientation and mobility instructors. They used to have a requirement that you had to be fully sighted, with normal vision, to be certified as a mobility instructor. When Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act came along and the university programs that trained mobility instructors were afraid of being sued, they modified it to a functional abilities assessment checklist. These functional abilities included things like observing a student from distances as high as 375 feet. These were not tasks associated with orientation and mobility. A fully sighted person who had never worked with a blind person could have performed the functional abilities, while an experienced blind cane travel teacher could not have passed the functional abilities assessment. Its sole purpose was to discriminate against the blind. AER is proposing next week in Dallas to modify it even further. The new modification will allow us as blind people to become certified, but only if we pass the functional abilities test by using a reader--that is, a sighted person to give us the information that they believe is so vital. This marks no progress at all. This marks no understanding of how blind people teach cane travel. To add insult to injury, they intend to take note of these accommodations and mark them on your certificate to protect the client and the employer.
Most recently we have been asked to participate in a conference. (This is to show how open-minded the AER has become.) The conference would bring together blind people who have taught cane travel and university types who run the mobility programs, and we would demonstrate for them our techniques. Then they would go back and conduct research to see whether they work. This type of proposal is also insulting and intolerable.
While we are willing to work with others, we will not sell ourselves out just to get along. We will continue to speak up for that which is right and speak out against that which is wrong! It is our strength and commitment to purpose that have shifted the balances and caused those who were once our opponents to seek our partnership now. The agencies are keenly aware that they can no longer be sustained without us. Yet, as in 1967, we must still ask the question, "When the agency official passes by, who goes there: friend or foe?" Only now the agency official is compelled to ask the same question of us. "When the blind pass by, who goes there: friend or foe?" No longer is power vested solely in the agencies. Today it is also vested in the organized blind. The balance has shifted.
What are the challenges that lie ahead? They are the challenges of increased social and economic opportunity: the right to go to school and get a good education; to become literate and to hold a responsible job, to own a home, raise a family, and participate actively in the community; the right to obtain training and to be treated with respect; the right to work in equal partnership with the governmental agencies charged with providing rehabilitative services; the right to associate freely with others and work collectively for the common good; the right to pass on to each new generation a sense of hope for the future and perspective on the past. These are the rights associated with freedom and the rights we intend to have. These are the challenges of tomorrow and the challenges of today and the challenges of yesterday. Only now we have rounded the last turn, and the finish line is within sight. Our success is unstoppable.
The National Federation of the Blind is the vehicle by which we move toward freedom. Collectively we share a history marked by tyranny and exclusion. Collectively we have battered down much of the old thinking about blindness and replaced it with a new vision, and collectively we will arrive at that day when we as blind people attain equal membership in society.
Soon I will be moving to Washington to take up my new work with the Rehabilitation Services Administration. I do not know all that lies ahead,but I do know that I will not compromise my fundamental values for the sake of getting along. You can count on me to do my part to further our mission and to work for that day when, as blind people, we truly do obtain first-class status in society.
[Photo: Mr. Maurer reads Braille from the podium. Caption: President Maurer delivers the 1994 banquet address.]
LET THE WING OF THE BUTTERFLY FLAP
Delivered by MARC MAURER
President, National Federation of the Blind
At the Banquet of the Annual Convention
Detroit, Michigan, July 6, 1994
Events in the universe have traditionally been classified as cosmos or chaos--cosmos for order and chaos for disorder. But within the last twenty years this division within the realm of science has become indistinct. A new discipline seeks to explain what appeared in the past to be random events by attempting to identify patterns in chaos. The significance of this study was dramatized by the meteorologist and mathematician Edward Lorenz, who asked in his 1979 address to the American Association for the Advancement of Science: "Does the Flap of a Butterfly's Wings in Brazil Set Off a Tornado In Texas?"
In the scientific study of chaos events are divided into two categories: those which are repeated precisely and those which (even though they sometimes appear to be repetitious) are never duplicated. Exactly repeated events (known as periodic occurrences) are understandable and predictable. Nonperiodic events may be strikingly similar, but they never entirely reproduce the circumstances of a former time. Therefore, they are unstable and unpredictable.
The Lorenz thesis is that a nonperiodic system is unstable at every point. Consequently, a small change in one part of it may be magnified through repetition so that, several cycles later, it becomes prodigious. The hope of the scientists studying chaos is that, if the overall pattern can be understood and if the controlling elements of a scientific process can be identified, unstable chains of events can be manipulated. The possibility emerges of bringing order out of chaos.
But what does all of this have to do with the blind? Do the principles involved in the scientific study of chaos have application to us? Is there a pattern to be recognized--and if so, what does it tell us? Do we as blind people exist within a structure that is nonperiodic and hence unstable at every point? Does this mean that there is the possibility of altering our circumstances--not only when the time is right, but at any time that we can find the strength, the will, and the resources?
If we were foolish and imperceptive enough to accept the beliefs about blindness that once were universally held, our history would be brief and our story soon told. Here it is in a nutshell: Our patterns of action and interaction are almost nonexistent. They are unremarkable--flat--so entirely repetitious and dull as to be dismissed without the slightest stir of interest. The cycle for the blind (we have heard it through the centuries) is periodic, stable, predictable. According to this theory, we who are blind come into being and live our lives without making substantial contributions, either to society or ourselves. Well, perhaps one contribution. Since we require more support than others, there will be a lightening of the burden for the rest of humanity when we leave this "vale of tears." If you think I exaggerate or overdramatize, I ask you to remember that the Greeks and the Romans exposed their blind children on the hillsides to die, and so did many others.
Yes, that was the theory. And in some quarters that is still the theory. But don't you believe it! It's a lie! That theory is not our theory. That understanding of blindness is not our understanding--and those who think that way cannot comprehend either the effort and sacrifice of our past, the struggle and transition of our present, or the hope and dream of our future. Chaos theory tells us that tiny alterations (even the flapping of the butterfly's wing) may produce dramatic effects--and at least for us, that is true.
We can prove it by what happened in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, on November 16, 1940. The wing of the butterfly flapped, and tornadoes were produced, not only in Texas but all over this country and the world. Just a handful of blind men and women met that day to form the National Federation of the Blind. Their leader was our first President, Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, a young blind professor and brilliant Constitutional scholar. Only a handful. Only the writing of a constitution and the exchange of a pledge of joint action and mutual support. Yet for the blind the repercussions changed the world. The wing of the butterfly flapped.
Although in 1940 some schools for the blind had been in existence for over a hundred years and although a number of agencies and institutions had been operating for decades, conditions for the blind remained bleak. Blind people were not regarded by the public as capable of independence, and often the professional educators who worked with the blind on a daily basis felt the same way, believing that we could be no more than wards.
One of the early pioneers in work with the blind was Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe, who served as the first superintendent of the Perkins School for the Blind and who went counter to the general trend. An educator of real understanding and discernment, Dr. Howe believed that blind men and women could perform satisfactorily in the ordinary workplace along with their sighted neighbors. Such progressive perceptions were not shared by most other educators in the field.
A biography of Edward Ellis Allen, written by his wife and coincidentally published in that pivotal year of 1940, describes the work of one of Dr. Howe's successors, for Allen was a superintendent at Perkins. Mr. Allen divided blind students into two categories: the blind and the semi-sighted. According to Allen, only some blind people are bright enough for education, and even those learn at a reduced pace. The semi-sighted are in danger of psychological damage if they study with the blind, and blind people are completely helpless unless assisted by those who are assigned to instruct them. Here are excerpts from Mr. Allen's biography. It is worthy of note that much of the content of the book consists of direct quotes from his own writing and that the book was approved by him:
When I entered upon my responsible duties [he says], I did so, having resolved to add my best strength to ameliorate the condition of the blind--to thin the ranks of the pitiable blind by transference of as large a number as possible to the ranks of those who command the respect of everybody.
I interrupt the narrative to ask: Is the implied sweeping generalization believable? If we have not had the advantage of instruction by an educator of the blind, are we, as blind people, unable to command respect? Without the ministrations of a professional like Allen to ameliorate our condition, do we remain pitiable? But there are other pronouncements from this 1940 publication:
It has been said [continues Allen] that more than any other class the blind are in the hands of their educators. If this is true, how vast are our responsibilities. The task before us is greater in that we have not only to instill into the blind a belief in themselves, we must also bring it about that the seeing believe in them too. The dependence of the blind upon us, their helplessness--this it is that gives the work its absorbing interest.
I pause to reflect that if those who would teach us believe that we are interesting because they think of us as dependent and helpless, may we be saved from such teaching and such teachers. But this is not all from the Allen biography:
One of the early and late problems [in schools for the blind, the book says,] was their children who saw too little to be taught in the public schools but too much to be in a school for the blind, where they were misfits. They would not become finger-readers; the retarded pace of the blind children caused these others to slow down to meet it, or they spent their superfluous energies in teasing and hectoring the children who saw less.
Such children [says Allen] had previously either given up school or had gone off to institutions for the blind, where, because of being misfits, they commonly became poor students and psychologically more blind than seeing. Their change to an atmosphere of appeal to the eye [in the semi-sighted classes where blind children with a little remaining vision were taught to read print] was of untold benefit, establishing in them a new morale.
This summation of the prospects for the blind was just as much a lie and just as repugnant to thinking blind people in 1940 as it is today. Our morale does not depend on sight. When we are children, we do not slow down the so-called semi-sighted (or, for that matter, the fully sighted) because we read Braille. We are not completely dependent or helpless, and we do not need caretakers to interpret our potential to the public so that we may gain respectability. The Allen description contains a failure of understanding--one which is simple to express but vast in its implications. Allen's conception of the blind is that we cannot speak and act for ourselves--that there is a fundamental difference between those of us who are blind and those who are sighted--that a guiding hand will always be necessary to the lives of the blind--that equality between those who are blind and those who are not can never be achieved--and that the semi- sighted are stuck somewhere between in gradations of inferiority and helplessness, depending on how much or how little sight they have.
At the same time that these shop-worn opinions were being prepared for dissemination to the public, the National Federation of the Blind was being formed. The Federation (whose thousands of members are gathered here tonight, more than half a century later) serves today, as it did in 1940, as tangible refutation of this misguided portrayal of who we are and what we can do. The recent shift in emphasis in work with the blind, both for administrators of agencies and for educators in residential and public schools, is nothing short of dramatic. Increasingly the mood is one of cooperation, interaction, and mutual responsibility between programs for the blind and organizations of blind consumers.
We have every reason to hope that the day will soon be at hand when those of us who are blind can have first-class citizenship as a matter of right, and have it without the qualms which members of emerging minorities often feel as to whether they are worthy or entitled--not whether they are competent or able to contribute, but whether they are worthy or entitled. And while we are on the subject of worthiness and entitlement, we seem (thank God) to be almost approaching a time when we can be accepted as first-class citizens and equal participants in society without the constant necessity of hitting professionals in the blindness field over the head with their own misguided books and meaningless studies to deter them from trying to hold us in custody. We want to live in peace and cooperation. We have absolutely no desire for custody and control over the lives of others, and we absolutely won't permit others to have custody and control over us.
The Allen postulate is that there can be no true independence for the blind, but the daily experience of the least among us proves that this is not so. There was a time when the overwhelming majority of administrators and professionals in programs for the blind thought we were their inferiors--and behaved accordingly. But that time is rapidly coming to an end. With increasing frequency those in the field of work with the blind are joining with us on the road to freedom. Our founder and first president, Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, charted the course in 1940. In his twenty-fifth anniversary banquet address in the nation's capital in 1965, he set forth the basic tenets of our movement as clearly as they have ever been put:
Until the advent of the National Federation of the Blind [he said], the blind people of America were taken care of but not represented, protected but not emancipated, seen but rarely heard.... We who are blind knew in 1940 that if we wished to be free, if we meant to gain those inestimable privileges of participation for which we had so long yearned, then we must organize for purposes of self- expression and collective action, then we must concert to engage in a noble struggle.
That is what Dr. tenBroek said about the reason for the existence of this organization. If we wanted freedom, he said, we would have to organize. We would have to struggle, and it would be a noble struggle. He was right. We did. We still do. It is. And we intend to keep doing. We intend to keep doing until we get equal opportunity and full participation. Hear what I am saying. We are not asking for extra privilege or special status but only for the right to be ourselves, to be fairly judged as we really are, to fail or succeed on our own merit. That is why the National Federation of the Blind was formed. That is why it continues to exist. That is what we want, and that is what we will have.
As I have already said, blindness has been regarded as a settled, periodic, repetitive matter for most of recorded history, without a stir or the flap of a butterfly's wing. Those who lack the capacity to see, the theory has always gone, are unable to compete. With the recent advent of institutionalized concern for the blind and civil rights legislation, the language has changed, but many of the beliefs have not.
Nondiscrimination legislation dictates that public entities and many private companies must have a handicapped coordinator. Those designated to be handicapped coordinators have become (usually without benefit of training or experience) experts in disability--self-proclaimed experts, it is true, but accepted as experts notwithstanding.
In the spring of 1994, materials were distributed to city bus drivers in Boise, Idaho, to assist them in being properly sensitive to the needs of blind passengers. In a volume entitled "Passenger Assistance Techniques: A Training Manual for Vehicle Operators of Systems Transporting the Elderly and Handicapped," drivers are taught that blind people are different. The book says:
Since vision is an important part of balance, and due to a lack of visual warning or abrupt movements, many visually impaired passengers prefer to sit in seats against the vehicle wall or in seats that have arm rests.
That's what the Boise bus company says. I would have hoped that the notion that sight is required for balance had been put to rest decades ago. But here it is again--one of the fundamental characteristics of blindness, according to the experts down at the bus company. Using these false assumptions about the nature of blindness as a starting point, bus company officials have prepared an appendix which lists the rules for leading the blind. Here is a sample of it:
1. Never take hold of a person using a white cane without first telling him who you are and what you plan to do.
That is what the rule says, but think how much is not said but implied. After you have told the passenger who you are and what you plan to do, go right ahead. Take hold. Then do it. It isn't really necessary to determine whether the blind person wants you to do it or not. You are the driver. Besides, the passenger is blind. That means you're in charge. If the passenger objects to this kind of treatment, this only demonstrates that blind people are touchy and irritable, not to mention needing to sit in seats with an armrest and against the vehicle wall. It's really your duty to make the blind person do what you want. Rule number two is like rule number one. Here it is:
2. Never take hold of or move a person's white cane until you have told him exactly what you are doing and why.
Again, how much is implied but never stated! After you have explained what you are doing and why, feel free to take whatever action you please. Blind passengers shouldn't have a choice in these things. They are passengers, and you are the driver. Their behavior is your responsibility--and besides, they need to sit in a seat with an armrest and against the vehicle wall.
If you don't like rules number one and two, think about rule number four. It begins sensibly enough, but after the good beginning, it comes to a wretched end. This is what it says:
4. Always stay one-half pace ahead of the person you are leading. Remember, if you forget to tell him the direction of movement, the one-half pace will allow him to follow the movement of your body. If the person being led is staying beside you, he may well fall if you forget to tell him the direction of movement.
Do you suppose the tendency of blind people to fall is connected with the instability and lack of balance created by absence of sight? One of the oldest, most outworn, and used-up lies about the blind is that we fall a lot--falling down stairs, falling off buses, falling off the wagon, or falling in love. Do we who are blind fall more frequently than the sighted? But how often has this been used as a reason for requiring our acquiescence to irrational demands that we participate in special programs for the handicapped and that we keep out unless we are (as they put it) accommodated? We who are blind, the rules tell us, need to ride in seats with armrests or next to the vehicle wall.
The tone of this group of rules for bus drivers in Boise, Idaho, is perhaps most succinctly set in rule nine, which says:
9. Make sure that the stop command becomes automatic. You may not have time for explanations in a real emergency.
The brevity of this rule does not hide its ugly significance. The blind passenger is under the control of the driver. It is expected that the passenger will be obedient to the commands of the driver and that the response will be automatic and unquestioning.
The irony of this publication is that it was created in response to the legal obligation to accommodate the handicapped. Although the booklet doesn't say so directly, its obvious presumption is that touching, pulling, propelling, or otherwise manhandling the blind passenger is acceptable behavior. In the name of being helpful, drivers are instructed to adopt a pattern of obnoxious officiousness. This behavior and thinking are not new, of course. They are simply the old, discredited custodialism, decked out in the new regalia of ADA and hiding behind the jargon of present-day bureaucracy and synthetic expressions of concern for the weak and disadvantaged. This is an example of the uninformed instructing the uninterested regarding the unfortunate. If we who are blind are in as bad a condition as that, you have to wonder how we got out of the house and found the bus stop in the first place. Let the wing of the butterfly flap. Oh, yes, let it flap! In fact, we will help it flap. No! We will do more than that! We will see that it does flap!
There are many odd theories about blindness. One of the better known is that those who become blind are granted compensatory powers. Everybody knows, for example, that we who are blind are good at music. After all, when the Lord removes one of your senses, according to the legend, he takes out the grindstone and sharpens up the others. Blind people have more acute senses of smell, touch, and hearing than the sighted-- right?
You may have thought that all of this talk about the special powers you possess was simply a matter of ignorance in bygone ages. Well, think again! We are now in the process of confirming that ancient foolishness with so-called scientific research. I wonder if we will ever know how much damage has been done to the blind by somebody making an application--to get a grant, to do research, to get a Ph.D., to get a good salary, to feel a sense of power, to make another application, to do more research!
A letter from the National Institutes of Health indicates that the federal government thinks there might be compensations for the loss of sight. Here in part is what it says:
In a collaborative effort between several laboratories at the National Institutes of Health, we are planning to explore the possible existence of "Compensatory Plasticity" in the blind. There is sporadic evidence for the fact that blind humans can compensate for their loss of vision by improving their remaining senses, but objective studies have been rare, and some studies even claim the contrary, namely that vision loss, especially when it happens early in life, actually impairs the development of other sensory modalities.
From behavioral and neurobiological studies on cats with early visual deprivation that some of us have undertaken recently [the letter continues], we are very optimistic that compensatory plasticity does exist in the mammalian brain, and we would like to explore this concept now in blind human subjects with modern quantitative techniques. Positron emission tomography (PET), for instance, has proven invaluable for monitoring neural activity in the living brain by measuring changes of local blood flow during mental tasks. It is a non-invasive, completely harmless technique, which we would like to apply to blind volunteers while they are listening to auditory stimuli presented to them via speakers or headphones. We hope to see an increase in brain activation in formerly visual as well as multisensory areas.
In our opinion [continues the letter], the importance of this planned research for the blind community cannot be overestimated. Not only would the objective proof of compensatory brain plasticity give the blind and their families a better outlook for their future, but it seems that more effective use of this compensatory plasticity should be possible, which would allow the design of sensory aids or prostheses better tailored to the brain structures and functions that have improved in this process.
Among blind subjects we are interested in those who have been blind from birth as well as those who have become blind later in life. These individuals should be essentially healthy and as free as possible of insults to the brain, other than blindness.
We would be extremely grateful to you and your colleagues if you could draw the attention of interested persons with total blindness to our planned research.
That is what the letter says. Believe me! I did not make it up. It is from the National Institutes of Health, a part of the government of the United States. Compensatory plasticity in the brains of blind people--that is what they want to study. When we are deprived of the sense of sight (holds the theory), the nerve impulses that might have come to the brain from the eye are redistributed to the other senses--touch, taste, smell, and hearing. If so, those of us who are blind are able to taste more keenly, smell more distinctly, feel more perceptively, and hear more acutely than others.
Think, for example, of the sense of touch. If our ability to feel is really intensified, a spanking for a blind child would hurt more than it does for a sighted child. Then, there is the intimacy of a kiss. Do we get more out of it than the sighted? I do not know how you feel about this proposition, but I suspect there might be those who would be willing to volunteer for the experiment.
Despite the scientific jargon, despite the studies on cats, despite the implementation of techniques using positron emission tomography, what a ridiculous bunch of nonsense! We are not freaks, and the so-called scientists who would treat us that way can learn something about us without the necessity of another scientific study and another federal grant. Blindness has not changed our mental powers. Not at all. We the members of the organized blind movement have learned to think, and one result of that thinking is that we are not willing to permit the ignorant theories and ignorant superstitions of a former time to be sanctified in the scientific literature by people wanting government grants to carry on so-called research. Blind people are not abnormal, and we will not let the experts tell us that we are. We have the strength, the will, and the resources to make our future what we want it to be. The wing of the butterfly has flapped.
In the medical laboratories and the offices of the city bus company, a thorough understanding of blindness is not to be expected. In the field of work with the blind, however, a more exacting standard should be demanded. The educators who write about the blind should have the background, the experience, and the knowledge to recognize the new reality. Unfortunately the assumptions in the literature of the 1990's sometimes resemble those of an earlier era.
In 1993 an educational text was published entitled The Art and Science of Teaching Orientation and Mobility to Persons with Visual Impairments. This book by Dr. William H. Jacobson, a professor of rehabilitation of the blind at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, was ostensibly written to encourage the teaching of cane travel skills to the blind. However, an examination of the contents does not inspire confidence.
In Chapter Five there is a section entitled "Turns and reversing direction." It is not exactly what you would call a long section--ponderous, maybe, but not long. It contains seven sentences and three pictures. I discovered, to my astonishment, that the subject matter is how to turn around. Not how to move around the block or walk around the room or get around the teacher or go around the world but how to turn around. The text of this section is hard to follow without reference to the pictures. These show two people in an elevator. In the first photograph their backs are to the reader; in the second they are facing each other with their sides to the reader; and in the third they are facing forward. In other words, they turned around. As you hear these instructions, ask yourself if you are capable of this complicated maneuver. Here are the sentences:
When the instructor and student pivot around each other in turning and reversing directions, the cane is held in the not-in-use manner. To reverse directions using the about- face procedure, the two turn to face each other. The student places the cane in the hand that is holding on to the instructor. He places the cane vertically to the ground and flat against the instructor's arm, with the cane between the palm (or thumb) and the guiding arm. The student finds the instructor's free arm with the freed hand of the "cane" arm. He lets go of the original arm and grasps the cane in the not-in-use position. As he grasps the instructor's new guiding arm in the basic sighted guide position, they turn to face in the opposite direction (see Figures 5.1-5.3).
As you ponder Professor Jacobson's words, think back a little. Do you remember kindergarten and that little song "Do the Hokeypokey"? That's the one in which "You put your right foot in, and take your right foot out. Put your right foot in, and shake it all about. Do the hokeypokey, and turn yourself around. That's what it's all about." Did Professor Jacobson miss kindergarten, or is he under the mistaken impression that the blind did? Do we really need a college text to instruct those who will teach us to travel with a cane the intricacies of turning around?
The professor's writing would be amusing if it were not so destructive. The fact that such bizarre material can seriously be distributed is an indication of the extent of the misperceptions of blindness that still exist. The underlying assumptions of the work of Dr. Jacobson are completely without foundation. They are false--a distortion--a part of the burden of our past. We possess the ability to think and speak and act for ourselves. We know about our capacity to build and our powers of comprehension. A growing number of the professionals in work with the blind also know. Let Professor Jacobson turn from the pattern of yesterday and gain a new perspective. Let him learn about the flap of the butterfly's wing.
Although blindness can, with proper training and opportunity, be reduced to the level of a physical nuisance, it does not always happen that way. Sometimes the misunderstandings about blindness are permitted to survive, and those who become blind receive little stimulation, no encouragement, and virtually no training. When this occurs, the life of the blind person is wasted, and there is sorrow indeed.
About a year ago I received a letter from a mother in Philadelphia. Although it is brief, this letter describes a dramatic and soul-searching problem--one which demands our attention---one which raises questions that must be answered. The letter says:
Enclosed is my check for the most enjoyable book, Making Hay. I also have a blind son. He has been living in the blind residence since my husband died six months ago. I sent him there, as I am getting up in years and can no longer take care of him. The home might close, and there is no other place in Philadelphia for the blind. I wrote dozens of letters and made many phone calls, but no one responded--no one cares for the blind. I wrote to United States Senator Arlen Specter in Washington, D.C., and no reply from him either. If you have any suggestions as to where we can get funds to remain open--it would be appreciated.
As we have so often said, blindness need not be a tragedy, but in this case it is--or, more precisely, the false assumptions which have ruined this man's life are. When our state president visited the home for the blind, he learned the details. This mother cared for her blind son until he was almost forty years old. Then she moved him to a home for the blind because she was no longer able to give him the attention he needed. This blind man, a resident of the home for the blind, sings for his church, but he has no other regular interaction with society outside the home. There has been no training, no opportunity for productive employment, no encouragement to be a part of the broader society, and no prospect for taking initiative and planning his own future. But this is not the worst of it. This blind man's very wish for independence is gone. The spirit that might have sought self-sufficiency and freedom has been killed, stamped out forever.
What went wrong? What action can now be taken to correct the problem? How many other blind people are there who face the same isolation and loneliness of an unproductive, segregated existence? How many blind people are being urged to be satisfied with protection and care instead of self-sufficiency, risk, and freedom? How many of us have (without even knowing we did it) accepted less from ourselves than we might have achieved for the sake of a little peace? But our pattern is not unalterable. We have been told that our lives are predictable, and in the past this has often been true. The pattern of care and custody is being replaced by one of initiative and hope--and we the blind are making it happen. Although there may be some individuals who have given up, we have not. In the homes for the blind, in the hamlets and towns throughout the nation, on the farms or in the cities, there are opportunities to be had, and we will bring them into being. Tiny alterations can create tremendous results, and we shall not rest until the pattern is shifted. Let the power of the butterfly's wing be felt.
As I was contemplating the gathering of the organized blind movement in this convention of the National Federation of the Blind, I was reminded of an incident which occurred on a Thanksgiving day in the early 1970's. Dr. Jacobus tenBroek is the innovator and founder of the National Federation of the Blind. Dr. Kenneth Jernigan is the tireless builder of our movement and resourceful teacher of the blind, who in the early 1950's met Dr. tenBroek for the first time and began a period of intensive work and study that has never abated despite the death of Dr. tenBroek in 1968. The message of Dr. tenBroek, that the blind could engage in a noble struggle to win the rights of full participation and first-class citizenship, struck a responsive chord in the mind and heart of the philosopher and teacher, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan. He carried that message to every corner of the nation and began a process of building the National Federation of the Blind and of teaching blind people, which has altered the course of our history for all time. Dr. Jernigan encouraged us, challenged us, taught us--and the range of his instruction was broad enough to include matters as diverse as how to cut wood, how to structure a sentence, how to barbecue a steak, how to believe in ourselves, how to speak in our own best interests, and how to jump rope. Tiny alterations in a system can lead to changes that are beyond imagining.
A number of us had gathered for a meeting of the Federation that Thanksgiving day, and we had enjoyed one of those bountiful dinners. Late in the afternoon a few of us were talking about the participation of blind people in gym class. Some among us had believed that jumping rope could not be done without sight. Dr. Jernigan showed us otherwise. Rope jumping can be done alone, but it is more intricate, more complex, and more satisfying when done in tandem. One, two, three, or four at a time we jumped rope. Four at a time takes timing, precision, and cooperation. If it is to be done successfully, there must be similarity of purpose and coordinated effort. Jumping rope is a simple thing unless the person doing the jumping starts with the belief that it can't be done.
As it is with jumping rope, so it is with cooking a steak, sawing a tree, gaining independence, changing a society, revolutionizing thought, or causing the butterfly's wing to flap. Dr. Jernigan taught us to believe in our own abilities, and with that belief came the power to act. With something as simple as jumping a rope, he emphasized the importance of working together. It was true in 1940; it was true in 1970; and it is just as true today. If we want to alter the pattern, we must work with each other to reinforce each repetition in the cycle. Dr. tenBroek created the mechanism; Dr. Jernigan taught us to use it. What comes next is our responsibility.
And the prospect we face is bright. Look about you! We live in a wonderful time of unparalleled hope and opportunity. Federation centers are scattered throughout the nation, turning out competent graduates. We are getting more and more jobs in both government and private employment. An increasing number of professionals in the blindness field are coming to the new understanding and marching with us to freedom. And as important as anything else (maybe more important because more encompassing) is the positive shift in public attitude. All of this has not happened by accident. We have caused it to happen--through our Kernel Books, which blanket the land; through our television and radio announcements; through our daily example in workplace and home; and through our routines of daily living. We have made it happen, and we are accelerating the process exponentially.
As we come together tonight in our thousands from every part of the nation, we must try to identify those elements that make the pattern for us what it is. We cannot erase the past, the universal belief of a former time (which is even accepted sometimes today) that we who are blind are helpless and inferior. That incorrect assessment (that chain of mental slavery) is a part of our heritage. We should not hate it. Rather, we should cherish it, understand it, and learn from it. Let us hug it to our breasts and remember the countless thousands of blind men and women who were destroyed by it. It will be one of our most powerful teachers and motivators as we come fully to appreciate our own worth and strive for the recognition and acceptance that must and will be ours. In the theory of chaos we are told that a nonperiodic system is unstable at every point--that tiny alterations can produce dramatic effects. But of course an unstable system can be influenced for good or ill. We must seek those elements which will bring creative and positive change, and we must minimize the influence of everything else.
Although many of the writings regarding blindness (such as the ones from the Boise bus company, the National Institutes of Health, and the professor of rehabilitation at the University of Arkansas) are negative, dreary, and false, they are no longer unchallenged in shaping the pattern. The sentiments contained in these writings have been repeated almost without alteration for centuries. But no more! A new course has been taken--and we are not now dealing with the mere flap of the butterfly's wing. That occurred in 1940. It has been amplified and re-amplified through repetition until there are now tornadoes, not only in Texas but throughout the world.
We are altering the course of our history--not only when the time is right but as the need arises. The future is not a matter of prediction but decision--our decision. We have the example of our founder, Dr. tenBroek, and our leader, Dr. Jernigan. With growing momentum we are building upon what we in the Federation have already accomplished. Each of us must contribute our energy, and the combined effort has already become the strongest force that the field of work with the blind has ever known. The wing of the butterfly has flapped. But more than that, we have made it flap. The winds of change that are blowing will sweep away the old ideas, and we who are blind will gain our freedom. This is our promise--to ourselves and to the blind of coming generations! This is the commitment that was made at the time we first came to organize. This is the commitment we reaffirm today. We always keep our word. Our future is in our own hands. Let us go together to meet it!
[Photo/Caption: NFB SCHOLARSHIP WINNERS, 1994--Front row (left to right): Corinne Vieville; Lisa Connor; Jeffrey Treptow; Nancy Feldman; Lori Miller; Latonya Phipps; Jennifer Koch; Christine Gravinsky; and Patricia Lawson. Center row (left to right): Cecilia Ojoawo; Leann Keefe; Cary Supalo; Joel Zimba; Randy Horwitz; Chester S'groi; and Shannon Bartch. Back row (left to right): Christine Boone; Luis Anaya; Kurt Kuss; Shawn Mayo; Shane Buresh; Joseph Drenth; James Lyons; Tracy Rogers; and David Berry. [Photo: Christine Boone speaks at microphone. Caption: Christine Boone, winner of the 1994 American Action Fund scholarship, addresses the banquet crowd.]
THE SCHOLARSHIP CLASS OF 1994
The task of the National Federation of the Blind Scholarship Committee is never easy. During the spring, members must pore over many hundreds of scholarship applications to choose the group of finalists, who will attend the convention to compete for the various awards. Then during convention week, when there are always at least five things one wants to do with every free moment, they must find the time to get to know each of the twenty-six winners in order to make the final judgments in the competition. This year the job was particularly difficult. The Class of '94 is talented and energetic. A number of its members are already active in the Federation, and during the convention many others began to demonstrate deep interest in and personal response to our philosophy and commitment to changing what it means to be blind. This is what Peggy Elliott, Chairman of the Scholarship Committee, had to say to and about the members of the Class of '94 at the Wednesday, July 6, banquet as she presented scholarship certificates to each person:
The word change is much used these days. To me change is a slippery word. Change can be good or bad. It can be change backward or change forward. We in the National Federation of the Blind, for example, say, "We are changing what it means to be blind." We know the direction of that change; it can't get any worse; it can only get better. But this afternoon Dr. Jernigan described another kind of change, the change in literacy among blind people--that change brought about inadvertently by mainstreaming, sending literacy down for blind people. That is not positive change.
A better word than change is progress. Progress implies going in a deliberately chosen direction toward a specified goal. Since 1940 the National Federation of the Blind has brought about steady progress in the condition of the blind by knowing what we want; by ourselves devising the means for getting it; and by gaining strength by doing the job ourselves, doing it well, and taking pride in the doing.
Likewise, this year's twenty-six scholarship winners are all on steady courses of progress. Each one has chosen education as a necessary tool that he or she needs in order to achieve his or her goals. Each of these scholarship winners aspires to certain goals. Some of them will achieve the goals they now seek. Some, along their path, will choose to change their goals. But as you will see from the twenty-six scholarship winners this evening, each of them is making progress. Each of them is changing his or her life for the better, and by doing so each of them helps to further the progress of all blind people toward freedom. I'm about to introduce to you the twenty-six scholarship winners. Let me begin by saying that each of them has a distinguished academic record. Most of them have a grade point average that could be described as "3.9 something." So I'm not going to say they are academically distinguished over and over again--you can take that statement as applying to all of them. I'll tell you a little about each as he or she comes forward to receive his or her certificate. I do want to mention though that most of the donors of most of the scholarships are here in this room tonight. A few of our scholarships were endowed by wills or by people who are not here. But all of the scholarships named National Federation of the Blind are given by you and me--the people in this room and those thousands of Federationists who weren't able to join us tonight but who are long-standing members of the National Federation of the Blind. I will now begin, ladies and gentlemen, to introduce to you the twenty-six scholarship winners and to tell you what each has won.
The first category is National Federation of the Blind Scholarships. Each of these particular scholarships is in the amount of $2,000, and there are eight such scholarships.
Shane E. Buresh, Nebraska, Nebraska: Shane aspires to be a teacher. Next year he'll be a junior at Peru State College in Nebraska, where he's studying in the curricula of both education and mathematics. His goal is to be a secondary math or possibly a teacher of special education in the public schools. Shane also serves as a newspaper columnist for his college newspaper and competed in a statewide competition of newspaper columnists in which he won second place. He's also a senator in his college senate, and he has participated in several state and national conventions of the National Federation of the Blind.
Joseph Bradley Drenth, Michigan, Michigan: Joseph has just graduated from Petoskey High School, which he describes as six hours north of here, still in the State of Michigan. He'll be a freshman in the fall at Michigan Technological University, where he intends to earn a degree in electrical engineering and computer science. His goal is to go on through to graduate studies, where he wants to study bio-engineering with an emphasis on brain and neuro-intercommunications involving electro-chemical voltage variances! I'm not kidding. Joseph began to lose his sight only a couple of years ago. He's a National Merit Scholar, and he's also an avid gardener--even six hours north of here.
Randall S. Horwitz, New York, New York: Randy has just completed his first year at Rochester Institute of Technology, where he is earning a B.S. in computer science. Randy intends to work in the field of computer programming. He was also recently elected to serve as President of his local Hillel chapter, the international Jewish organization for students.
Patricia Lawson, Texas, Texas: Patricia will be a sophomore in the fall at Houston Community College, where she is earning an A.A. degree in mental health and social work. Patricia intends ultimately to earn an M.S.W. and become a licensed professional counselor. Patricia has been a member of the Houston Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind for eight years. She works now full-time at the Houston Lighthouse for the Blind in the social services department and is attending school full-time at night.
Latonya Phipps, Maryland, Georgia: Latonya will be a sophomore in the fall at Spelman College, where she already has one year under her belt. She is working towards a B.S. in psychology. She would ultimately like to earn a Ph.D. in psychology and have her own practice. She would also like to have a Ph.D. in African-American literature. She'd like to work part- time as an English professor and full-time as a psychologist. Latonya has been a freshman member of the class council. She is a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and she also served as a judiciary representative for her class. Latonya knows what discrimination is first-hand since her French professor told her that he didn't know what she was doing there, because she obviously couldn't perform. She proved him wrong.
Chester Paul S'groi, California, California: Chester will be a senior in the fall at Humboldt State University in northern California. He's simultaneously earning a B.S. in psychology and a B.A. in religious studies. Chester's goal is to be ordained as a Roman Catholic priest.
Jeffrey J. Treptow, Arizona, Arizona: Jeff is now working at Phoenix Community College toward an A.A. in office automation. He intends to get employment in word processing and ultimately become a supervisor. I want to read to you a few sentences from Jeff's application letter. I think it's one of the, well you will see what I mean: "During the past nine years, I have worked in a sheltered workshop for the blind, Arizona Industries for the Blind, doing basic production work for substandard wages. In May of 1992 I was laid off and tried to find other work. However, I was not able to find other work because of my lack of education and computer skills. I have been a member of the Phoenix Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind for approximately two years. I honestly believe that the only way out of sheltered workshops is through better education. They only want the blind to work in sheltered workshops and do menial labor. This scholarship certainly would be a great help to me and insure the fact that I will not have to return to sheltered workshop employment. The state rehabilitation agency does not want to help the blind get a better education. They only want the blind to work in sheltered workshops and do menial labor."
The next scholarship winner, unfortunately, though she has been with us throughout the convention, is not here this evening. She has been felled by a combination of infections, and I'll read her scholarship to you and will convey it to her at another time.
Elizabeth Anne Winterstein, Illinois, Illinois: Elizabeth will be a sophomore at the College of St. Francis in the fall. She is earning a B.S. in psychology, hopes ultimately to earn a Ph.D., and wants to counsel children and adults with vision loss. She says to us that her true passion is public speaking, which many of us can appreciate, and that she has been active in Illinois state Republican politics.
The next scholarship is the Hermione Grant Calhoun Scholarship in the amount of $2,000. As many of you remember, this scholarship was endowed by Dr. Isabel Grant in memory of her daughter. Dr. Grant traveled internationally sometimes, I think, more than she stayed in the U.S. of A. This scholarship goes to:
Christine L. Gravinsky, Alaska, Colorado: Christine has completed two years of her baccalaureate studies at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, where she outgrew them. She has now moved to the University of Northern Colorado in Ft. Collins, where she'll start her junior year. She intends to get degrees in German and Spanish. She wants to interpret and translate with fluency in a minimum of seven European languages. You can see how she outgrew the University of Alaska at Fairbanks.
The next scholarship is the Ellen Setterfield Memorial Scholarship in the amount of $2,000. This scholarship is restricted to people studying in the social sciences, and the donor prefers a graduate student. We didn't happen to have one this year, so the scholarship goes to:
Jennifer Ranee Koch, Wisconsin, Minnesota: Jennifer will be entering her senior year in the fall at the University of Minnesota, where she is pursuing a bachelor's degree in English as a second language. She wants to be a teacher of English as a second language, and her discipline is Chicano studies. She's a woman of broad interests, working in Habitat for Humanity, volunteering in nursing homes, and working with retarded adults. She is a member of the Twin Cities Chapter and a member of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota Board of Directors and has helped with fund raising for that organization. She also helped to organize a new chapter in Austin, Minnesota.
The next scholarship is the Kuchler-Killian Memorial Scholarship in the amount of $2,000, endowed in loving memory of June Rose Killian's parents. June Rose, of course, and all the Killians are always here. This scholarship will be given to:
Joel Steven Zimba, West Virginia, West Virginia: Joel will be a junior at West Virginia University in Morgantown, West Virginia, in the fall, where he is earning a bachelor of science degree in computer science. To tell you a little more about Joel, he plans to make his career in the area of making software applications useful to and friendly to people with no computer knowledge. He also plays electric guitar, chess, and the game, Dungeons and Dragons.
The next scholarship is a new one this year, endowed by a person who has shown much interest in the blind community over the years, endowed by Mr. Ray Kurzweil in the amount of $2,000. The Kurzweil Scholarship will go to:
Lisa Genevieve Connor, Hawaii, California: She is a high school senior right now and has just completed her work in Hawaii Preparatory Academy. In the fall she will be a freshman at Stanford University, and hers is my favorite discipline. She is going to earn a B.S. in symbolic systems. Lisa is then going to earn an M.B.A. and work in the business field with computers. For six years Lisa has been a member of the National Federation of the Blind. Remember, this is a graduating high school senior. She currently serves as Second Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind of Hawaii. I want to tell you that her mother is also a long-time member and is also attending this convention.
The next four scholarships are National Federation of the Blind scholarships, each in the amount of $2,500.
Robert David Berry, Nevada, Nevada: Dave is currently in his senior year, working toward a bachelor's of social work degree at the University of Nevada at Reno. He intends to complete his B.S.W. and work towards an M.S.W. He also intends to do private counseling with young adults, adolescents, and children doing grief therapy. David is President of our Carson Valley Chapter. He was recently elected to a seat on the Board of the National Federation of the Blind of Nevada, attended his first D.C. Seminar this year, and is a single parent of two children, one of whom is blind.
Nancy Lorraine Feldman, Oregon, Oregon: Nancy will be a junior in the fall at the University of Oregon. She has just completed work at Chemeketa Community College and is going on to the University of Oregon, where she is going to earn a B.S. in psychology. Her goal is to earn a master's in psychology or whatever she needs in order to become a clinical psychologist. Nancy is also a single parent of two daughters. She is a member of the Lane County Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind. She is an equestrian and before her current career has marketed books, computers, and software.
Kurt Friedrich Kuss, Illinois, Illinois: Kurt has just completed work at National-Louis University on his bachelor of social work degree and will also be certified this fall in substance and alcohol abuse counseling. He'll begin his first year of a master's degree program in social work at Loyola University of Chicago in the fall. Kurt intends to become an employee assistance program counselor. He has chosen a field, as he says, in which you can get a job. He wants to counsel people with multiple substance-abuse problems. You can see that Kurt is a man of focus. He has chosen a field in which he knows he cannot be one of those seventy percent unemployed.
Lori Michelle Miller, Indiana, Indiana: Lori is entering her sophomore year at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, where she is taking full advantage of the smorgasbord of opportunities at the post-secondary level. She is undecided as to her discipline at the moment but considers possibilities in law or being a college professor. She is leaving from here to go play on the World Cup Goal Ball team in Colorado Springs. She also enjoys swimming and roller dance skating.
NFB Educator of Tomorrow Award, $2,500:
Corinne Vieville, California, California: Corinne will be beginning her second year in her master's degree at San Francisco State University, where she is in the Education Department. Her goal is to receive a certificate in adult rehab and also a credential in orientation and mobility, to which we all say, "Good luck." Corinne also wants to have a job in job development and career planning for blind students transitioning between home and work, with the opportunity to teach them skills as well as transitioning. She herself serves as President of the Mt. Diablo Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of California and lives on a family farm with her husband and four children, where they raise dairy and Angora goats, dairy and beef cattle, wool sheep, pigs, horses, donkeys, ponies, and a variety of poultry. I want you to know that, carrying all those responsibilities, she commutes one-and-a-half hours a day, one way, to college.
National Federation of the Blind Humanities Scholarship in the amount of $2,500:
Cecilia Ojoawo, Massachusetts, Massachusetts: Cecilia is about to begin her fourth year in her Ph.D. studies at Boston University, where she is earning a Ph.D. in psychology. She would like to be a college psychology professor. Cecilia herself lost her own parents in Nigeria when she was young and someday would like to build an orphanage for children in Nigeria. She also enjoys canoeing. She is a member of and serves currently as Secretary of the NFB of Massachusetts Boston chapter, and she teaches Sunday school to first-grade kids.
Frank Walton Horn Memorial Scholarship in the amount of $2,500. This scholarship, of course, is endowed in loving memory of Catherine Horn Randall's father by Cathy and her family, all of whom are staunch and active members of the NFB of Illinois:
Cary Alan Supalo, Illinois, Indiana: Cary has just completed his freshman year at Northern Illinois University, where he is seeking a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering. He has decided to change schools in the fall, and he'll be a sophomore at Purdue University in Indiana. He intends to earn an E.E. and to work as an engineer in a large corporation. He is an active member of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois, where he attends chapter meetings. He has been to state and national conventions. While at NIU he served as a student senator from his class to the student government, also as a volunteer receptionist at the Roman Catholic Youth Center, and he is currently President of the Illinois Association of Blind Students. So, Illinois, you'll have to find a new president.
The Howard Brown Rickard Scholarship in the amount of $2,500, our most long-standing scholarship, and restricted to students in the fields roughly of natural sciences, architecture, or law. It has been given since 1968 and goes this year to:
Luis Anaya, California, California: Luis is currently a high school senior, having just finished at California Academy of Mathematics and Sciences. He will be a freshman in the fall at the University of Southern California, where he also intends to earn a B.S. in electrical engineering. His goal is to add a J.D. to that E.E. He wants to be a lawyer and ultimately a patent attorney, combining his knowledge of math and science with the law. He has served as student body president during his time at the California Academy of Math and Sciences. He likes to race bikes, and he has taken college-level courses already in things like differential calculus and physics.
Melva T. Owen Memorial Scholarship in the amount of $3,000:
James Anthony Lyons, California, California: James will be a senior in the fall at San Diego State University, where he is studying in the discipline of liberal studies with an emphasis in music. His goal is to be an elementary school teacher. I heard someone say this week, "I wish he was teaching my girl right now rather than some of the teachers she has." James also serves as Treasurer of the San Diego Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of California, and he attended and won a scholarship at last fall's NFB of California convention. James is a single parent of a teenage daughter.
The next scholarship is a brand new scholarship. This scholarship is the Mozelle and Willard Gold Memorial Scholarship in the amount of $3,000. This will be an annual scholarship endowed by Sharon Gold in memory of her parents. Her mother passed away in 1988, and her father passed away in March of this year. Sharon's mother learned Braille when Sharon was a youngster, and when she was eight, her mother learned that there were over three hundred blind adults in the Bakersfield area who did not know Braille. Her mother started the Braille classes that continue today. She believed in literacy in the 1940's, '50's, and '60's, before we took up the issue in the National Federation of the Blind. Her father was one of those people of whom it was said, "He asked nothing of others and gave everything to others." This scholarship will be given this year to:
Shannon Raen Bartch, Missouri, Missouri: Shannon has just graduated from high school and will begin her freshman year of college at St. Louis University, where she will begin her studies toward a bachelor of science degree in psychology. Shannon also intends to earn a J.D. and to become a lawyer. Right before convention Shannon started learning Braille. I think that is one of the nice reasons why this is such a good scholarship for Shannon. She was also a cheerleader for four years in high school. She is a member of the Missouri Triangle Chapter and went to the D.C. Seminar this year. Shannon Bartch, the first winner of the Mozelle and Willard Gold Memorial Scholarship.
The next two scholarships are called National Federation of the Blind Scholarships. They are each in the amount of $4,000:
Shawn Marie Mayo, Illinois, Illinois: Shawn will be a senior at Bradley University in the fall, where she is also studying towards a B.S. in psychology. Her goal is to achieve a degree and then to counsel children with chronic and terminal illnesses and to do research on that same subject. In addition to her vocational interests, Shawn is now trying to write a book on this subject. She is also an equestrian. I wonder, Illinois, if you have found your next President for the Illinois Association of Blind Students?
Tracy Edmond Rogers, Colorado, Colorado: Tracy will be a junior in the fall at Colorado State University, where he is going to be earning two degrees, a bachelor's of social work and also a B.A. in history. Tracy ultimately hopes to earn a J.D. degree and listen to these aspirations. He wants to be a federal prosecutor or litigation expert when he comes out of school. Within twenty years he wants to be either a U.S. Congressman or Senator or a federal judge. Tracy is also a single parent of a three-year-old daughter and likes to write songs, go to plays, and go with his daughter for walks in the park.
The next scholarship is the Anne Pekar Memorial Scholarship in the amount of $4,000. This scholarship endowed by the parents of Anne Pekar in loving memory of her is restricted to a woman between the ages of seventeen and twenty-five:
Leann M. Keefe, Kansas, Kansas: Leann will be starting her second year of her graduate studies in a master's program at the University of Kansas in Slavic languages and linguistics. Her goal is to be a professor of Russian and Slavic languages. Leann spent nine months recently in Russia, some of that teaching and some of that attending Moscow State University herself. Leann is a member of the Lawrence Chapter and active in programs for blind students in Kansas.
The final scholarship is the American Action Fund Scholarship in the amount of $10,000. I will first tell you who the scholarship winner is and then, as that winner comes forward, tell you a little about her:
Christine Leah Boone: Many of us know Chris, and she has lived in the states of Nebraska, New Mexico, Colorado, and Oregon. She has served in chapter presidencies and as a state president in many of those states. Some of you probably don't know that she has now just completed her first year of law school at Creighton University in Omaha. She is going to earn a J.D. degree and become a lawyer. She is also the mother of two children, Edward and Katie, who are here along with her husband at this convention. As a blind person Chris has successfully and lovingly taught cane travel professionally, and she has also taught teachers of the blind as well. She is now changing careers, and in whatever career Chris Boone decides to engage, you know and I know that she will not only make progress but she will make a success. Here, for a few remarks, is our $10,000 winner, Chris Boone:
Out of all of these incredibly intelligent, articulate, brilliant men and women, I can't believe you chose me. It's very difficult to find the words to express how honored I am. I think this is probably the greatest honor of my life, to be here before you, my brothers and sisters and friends, and to know that you have bestowed this incredible honor upon me. The Federation has given to me so richly by the wise teachings of Dr. Jernigan, and the kind and strong encouragement of President Maurer, and the eloquent and enduring writings of Jacobus tenBroek--many of which I still read this year, my first year of law school, even though they were written forty years ago. I want to say that I have been a Federationist for many years. I will always be a Federationist. It's forever for me. I love you guys, and now let's embrace our future together and make a lot more tornadoes.
[Photo: Dr. Jernigan reads Braille from the podium. Caption: Dr. Kenneth Jernigan delivers the first address of the Wednesday afternoon panel discussion, titled "To Read, To Believe, To Gain Independence."]
OF BRAILLE AND HONEYBEES
by Kenneth Jernigan
From the Editor: Most of the afternoon session on July 6 was devoted to a discussion of the problems and challenges surrounding Braille literacy for blind Americans today. The first speaker on the panel was Dr. Kenneth Jernigan. Here is what he had to say:
For the blind of the United States the road to Braille literacy has been long and difficult, but the dream may at last be in process of becoming a reality. There are undoubtedly still battles ahead, but the changing climate is symbolized by a meeting that was held at the National Center for the Blind on April 4, 1994. That meeting brought together major elements in the blindness field and gives promise of unprecedented accomplishments. It also has the potential for tremendous strife and disunity if lessons are not learned and commitments not kept.
In recent years Braille has become extremely controversial, but it was not always so. Until after the Second World War, almost all blind children who were to be educated, as well as a great many of the partially sighted, went to residential schools for the blind. Braille was a given. Everybody learned it, and the students with partial sight made a practice of reading it with their eyes, blindfolds and lectures from teachers notwithstanding.
With the coming of retrolental fibroplasia and the sudden increase in the number of blind children, public school education became a necessity. There wasn't anywhere else to put the increased population, and the parents were not about to permit their children to grow up illiterate. But there was a side effect, one that received relatively little comment at the time. The centrality of Braille was destroyed.
The public school teachers didn't know Braille, and the new crop of teacher trainees in the mushrooming university programs were not much better off. It is true that they received a course or two in Braille, but that is not the same as concentrated use and everyday practice.
It was only a step from not knowing Braille to the rationalization that it was unimportant, outdated, and in many instances harmful. As technology advanced, it offered the vehicle. Parents, of course, were not only willing but anxious to swallow the fallacy. If the child could see even the tiniest bit, the teachers (not knowing Braille and feeling comfortable with print) could say: "Reading print is normal. You want your child to be normal. Therefore, you want your child to read print if this is at all possible. Never mind that the magnifiers may be awkward and clumsy and that large print may be scarce. Never mind that reading print may be slow and painful. Braille is that way, too."
Almost without exception the parents nodded in agreement and settled down to a life of limited expectations for their children. Mostly they didn't know any blind adults, people who could read Braille at hundreds of words a minute and use it as flexibly and efficiently as print is used by the sighted. They relied on the "professionals," the people who were trained to know and give competent advice.
I don't mean to paint a picture that condemns the professionals of the forties, the fifties, and the sixties. In the main they were sincere and dedicated, and in many instances they coped extremely well. The problems they faced were unprecedented, and there was probably no way that a proper emphasis on Braille could have been maintained or a true perspective achieved.
I attended a residential school for the blind in the thirties and forties and had a thorough grounding in Braille, so I suffered no damage and feel no resentment. The same cannot be said of many of the children of the post-World War II era. For the most part those with any sight at all swallowed the flimflam and limped along with print. When they reached high school and college, their reading needs increased; their sight often worsened; they met blind people who were literate and competent in Braille; and their anger and frustration congealed into a cold fury. They felt that they had been cheated and lied to, and they were determined that the blind of future generations should not be similarly victimized.
This brings us to the eighties and early nineties, but before continuing the story, I think it is only fair to say a word about the changing climate among professionals. Many (but by no means all) of today's teachers of the blind have reassessed the value and necessity of Braille. Working with the organized blind, these new pioneers insist that blind children must have the opportunity for true literacy and a full life. This means Braille. It also means an understanding of the part which social attitudes play in creating or inhibiting opportunity. It means the daily reinforcement of the concept that it is respectable to be blind and that, given adequate training and reasonable opportunity, the blind can compete on terms of equality with others.
Many elements have gone into the movement for Braille literacy which has built to a crescendo and is now sweeping the nation, but few would deny that the fight has been orchestrated and led by the National Federation of the Blind. The Federation organized NAPUB (the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille). The Federation has introduced and continues to press for the passage of Braille Bills in state legislatures--laws which guarantee the right of blind children to be taught Braille and to have teachers who are competent in its use. The Federation has promoted reading contests and similar activities to stress the importance of Braille to blind children. The Federation maintains a constant drumfire of publicity to reinforce the value of Braille, and it now spearheads a campaign to enact national legislation to assure that blind children will be taught Braille and that their teachers will know how to read and write it.
This brings me back to the April 4 meeting at the National Center for the Blind and the events that preceded it. At the first meeting of the Committee on Joint Organizational Effort, held in 1989 at the National Center for the Blind, the Federation pressed for a policy statement affirming the value of Braille and the right of blind children to have it. After considerable discussion and negotiation, such a statement was drafted and agreed to by those present, including the representatives of AER (the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired). However, AER subsequently said that its board had decided not to support the statement. This led to considerable controversy and no small amount of bad feeling.
The question of Braille literacy was discussed at subsequent meetings of the Committee on Joint Organizational Effort and also at regional meetings of the World Blind Union, but without agreement. The Federation constantly pressed, and AER just as constantly found problems with the language and some of the concepts. Although less vocal about it than the Federation, the American Council of the Blind supported the emphasis on Braille literacy. The American Foundation for the Blind (though frequently having problems with specific language and particular requirements) tended to do likewise.
At a meeting of the Committee on Joint Organizational Effort in January of 1992, I pressed hard for the adoption of a simple statement recognizing the right of blind children to have Braille instruction, and such a resolution was adopted. I don't want to make it appear that the AER representatives who were there were grudging in their acceptance of the resolution or that they opposed the concept of the value of Braille literacy. Such was not the case. However, they were reluctant to have unambiguous, straightforward language.
They said that the federal requirement for an IEP (Individualized Education Program) for each disabled student prohibited the blanket requirement that blind children should have Braille available to them. Such an argument concerning the teaching of print to sighted children would be laughed to scorn, but the world of disability and blindness has peculiar norms. In any case I want to give you the entire text of the January, 1992, resolution. It was unanimously adopted by the Committee on Joint Organizational Effort, with representatives of AER present and voting affirmatively. I intend to give you the full text of other documents as I proceed, and although some of them will be repetitious and characterized by the arcane jargon of professionalism, federalese, and bureaucracy, I urge you not only to give attention to them but to concentrate on their every word. We as blind people should become intimately familiar with the details of the resolutions, policy statements, and proposed Congressional enactments which vitally affect our lives and the lives of the blind of coming generations. Here is the text of the January, 1992, resolution:
RESOLUTION ON BRAILLE
Recognizing that ongoing assessment and due process are requirements of the law, the members of the Committee on Joint Organizational Effort endorse the principle that in planning the educational program for a blind or visually impaired child, these guidelines be followed:
If reading and writing are to be taught and if the parent or parents and the decision makers for the school want the child to be taught Braille, this should be done.
If reading and writing are to be taught and if the parent or parents and the decision makers for the school want print to be taught, this should be done.
If the parent or parents and the decision makers for the school cannot agree, then both Braille and print should be taught.
Unanimously adopted by the
Committee on Joint
January 16, 1992
Although the AER representatives participated in drafting the final language of this resolution and voted for it, they made it clear that they could not commit AER to its support until and unless they received approval from their board. Subsequently the AER board rejected the resolution.
Meanwhile, Federation Braille bills continued to be introduced and passed in state legislatures throughout the country. More often than not these bills were opposed (witness Wisconsin) by AER representatives. Certainly this was not universally the case, and in some instances there was and is collaboration.
Another element was the Braille competency test developed by NLS (the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress). The members of the Committee on Joint Organizational Effort requested NLS to develop the test, and it was painstakingly and competently done. It was released for use in January of this year, but a number of the teachers of the blind throughout the country said that the test should not be used since it had not been, to use their terminology, "validated." Never mind that the Library of Congress has been giving competency tests by the thousands to certify Braille transcribers since the 1940's, and never mind that the NLS test was developed by the most knowledgeable professionals in the blindness field, including leaders of AER. There were those who said that the opposition to the test was from people who did not know Braille, even though they were supposed to be in a position to teach it, and that in the name of professionalism they were simply trying to protect their jobs and cover their nakedness. Regardless of how vehemently such statements were made, they were just as vehemently rejected.
At its Washington Seminar in January of this year, the Federation made a federal Braille literacy law one of the prime objectives of its legislative program. The vehicle was meant to be the IDEA (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), which must be reauthorized before Congress adjourns this fall. To this end hundreds of Federation members went to Capitol Hill and contacted every Senatorial and Congressional office.
One of those contacted was Congressman James Traficant of Ohio, one of the Federation's longtime friends. In February of this year Congressman Traficant called the Federation's National Office and said that he intended to introduce a Braille Literacy Bill and that he would like proposed language. Although Federation representatives had talked to Congressman Traficant at the time of the Washington Seminar, his call was unexpected. In the circumstances (even though the time frame was short and the drafting necessarily hasty) the language was provided. Any other course would have been ill-advised, risking bad will and being counterproductive. The introduction of a Traficant Bill could do no harm since there would be plenty of time to refine the language and get consensus.
In a letter to members of the House of Representatives dated February 24, 1994, Congressman Traficant said in part:
The numbers of the blind who can read at all are declining. In 1968, out of 19,902 blind students enrolled in elementary and secondary education, 40 percent read Braille, 45 percent read large type or regular print, and 4 percent read both. In January, 1993, out of 50,204 blind students, fewer than 9 percent could read Braille, 27 percent could read print, and 40 percent could not read at all. In other words, while there are 40,000 more blind children in school today, only 30 percent can read--a far cry from 95 percent in 1968.
This is what Congressman Traficant said, and it graphically emphasizes the problem. There are those who claim that these statistics are misleading since many of the blind children who were counted in the 1993 census were multiply-handicapped while most of those listed in the 1968 computation were not, but such an argument fails to take into account two important factors. With the shifting of most of the educable blind children to public schools, the residential schools have correspondingly become the collecting place for children with multiple handicaps. This has inevitably meant a declining emphasis on Braille even for the educable blind children remaining in the residential schools. At the same time, as already noted, the public schools (with their thinly scattered population of blind students and their inexperienced teachers, who have no necessity to use and practice Braille on a daily basis) have been unable to fill the gap. Therefore, there is no place left where a blind child can be assured of receiving competent Braille instruction in a friendly environment.
Without any consultation or delay both AER and the American Foundation for the Blind sent letters and telegrams to Congress opposing the Traficant Bill. Upon reflection, leaders of both organizations say that they think they were mistaken in such impulsive action--action which created the very impression that the blindness field has been trying to avoid: namely, that the field is characterized by dissension and total disarray. Likewise, (and for those of you who are hasty to condemn I ask you to consider) we of the Federation should have found the time to alert AER and AFB to the step we were taking.
However, the negatives of the situation may have been more than balanced by the positives. The Federation called a meeting to be held in Baltimore at the National Center for the Blind on April 4 of this year. Present were Carl Augusto, Susan Spungin, and Scott Marshall of the American Foundation for the Blind; Paul Schroeder of the American Council of the Blind; Michael Bina, Tuck Tinsley, and Kathy McGivern of AER; and Marc Maurer, Jim Gashel, and I representing the National Federation of the Blind. We spent the day negotiating about Braille literacy and reached consensus on two documents--a statement of principles and proposed amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
But before giving you the language of these documents, I must go back to two other events. At the American Foundation for the Blind's Josephine Taylor Conference held in Washington on March 3 of this year, Carl Augusto, Susan Spungin, and I discussed in graphic and straightforward language the Traficant embroilment. We kept our tempers, but we made our feelings clear. It was obvious that all concerned wanted to find a solution and that we were in basic agreement on most of the issues. It was at that time that we agreed that the Federation would call the April 4 meeting.
At the regional meeting of the World Blind Union held at the American Foundation for the Blind building in New York on March 18 I presented a proposed statement of principles concerning Braille literacy. The statement was discussed and unanimously adopted. Again, by saying that I presented it, I do not mean to imply that the others at the meeting opposed it or were grudging in their acceptance of it. Everybody there was cooperative and engaged in give and take. At the end of the session it was not my statement but the statement of the entire group. Here is what it said:
If a child is totally blind or has such visual impairment as to be unable to read print, and if literacy skills are to be taught, the child should be taught to read and write Braille by a certified teacher competent to teach Braille literacy skills to the blind.
If a child has a visual impairment and if literacy skills are to be taught, the child should, if the parent or parents want this to be done, be taught to read and write Braille by a certified teacher competent to teach Braille literacy skills to the blind.
No teacher should be considered competent to teach Braille literacy skills to the blind unless such teacher has passed the Braille competency test developed by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress. The passing of the Braille competency test should not be considered a substitute for or an alternative to regular training and certification of a teacher but should be in addition to such training and certification.
This is the statement we adopted on March 18 of this year at the regional meeting of the World Blind Union, and although the AER representatives who were there made it clear that they would have to go to their board for final approval, surely it was reasonable to expect that the approval would be forthcoming. After all, the concepts (and even the details of the language) were not new. They had been kicking around for several years. Nevertheless, when we came to the April 4 meeting at the National Center for the Blind, AER had a counter-proposal. Before commenting on it, let me give you the exact text. Here it is:
It is absolutely imperative that blind and visually impaired students receive appropriate special education services to meet their current and future needs. The ability to read and write Braille is one skill which is critically important for independence and success. Failure to provide Braille instruction in the frequency and intensity as required in a student's Individualized Education Plan will inexcusably result in a student who has unrealized potential and who is unprepared to achieve and compete in school, work, and society at large. Without literacy skills and accessibility and availability of Braille, blind students are more seriously handicapped to achieve, succeed, and function by this illiteracy, inaccessibility, and unavailability than by their visual disability.
A student must be provided Braille instruction by qualified, competent staff as required by an Individualized Education Plan based on various considerations not limited to the student's visual capability, literacy potential, and input from parents and service providers.
A student must be provided Braille instruction who is capable of learning literacy skills, and who is either totally blind or who, in spite of appropriate low vision interventions, has a serious visual impairment to the degree as to be unable to read print efficiently as determined by a comprehensive assessment. In addition, parent rights, safeguards, and input must be respected and considered as provided in the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and respective state laws and rules.
Teachers of blind and visually impaired students must be graduates of comprehensive teacher training programs and must possess specialized certification to work with blind students. As an integral required part of the coursework to graduate from a teacher training program and to qualify for certification, teachers must pass the Braille Competency Test developed by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress. Individual state certification requirements should be strengthened to require additional coursework in the teaching methodology of Braille reading and writing over and above the current coursework which predominantly emphasizes the Braille code. Refresher opportunities should be made available to ensure that previously trained and currently certified teachers remain current and competent in teaching Braille.
The federal U.S. Office of Education Special Education Programs (OSEP) in its monitoring of individual states, and in turn the respective state monitoring of school programs should include specific criteria to ensure compliance with regard to provisions of 1) quality Braille instruction in local education agencies and state schools and 2) appropriate teacher certification.
In addition, consumer, advocacy, and professional organizations of and for the blind in the United States must work cooperatively with federal, state, and local officials and agencies to alleviate the critical personnel shortage and meet the significant demand for qualified and competent teachers of blind students in the United States.
This is the document which the AER representatives brought to the April 4 meeting at the National Center for the Blind, and it is clear that we were moving toward consensus. However, the document also exemplifies certain problems which have characterized our negotiations with AER not only about Braille literacy but about most other things as well. Among the involved phrases and the commendable sentiments, the crispness begins to fade, and there lurks considerable leeway for wiggling. What we have been trying to get from the very beginning is an unequivocal commitment that every blind and visually impaired child shall have the right to be taught Braille and that the Braille should be taught by somebody who is competent in its use. It is that simple and that uninvolved.
Again, I want to be sure that I am understood. Many of the leaders of AER say that they are firmly committed to the necessity of making Braille available to blind and visually impaired children and to having competent teachers, but the organization is so loosely structured that the leaders cannot with any certainty speak for the members who elected them. This must be frustrating to the leaders and doubtless also to many of the members. Perhaps the Braille literacy negotiations and other recent events will cause AER to rethink its procedures and give more authority to its officers. Otherwise, the organization will have difficulty coming to the table as an equal in the negotiations and partnerships of consensus which are beginning to emerge in the blindness field. AER has many strong leaders and a vital role to play in the new reality. If it cannot achieve discipline and purpose, it will lose--and all of us will lose.
The April 4th meeting at the National Center for the Blind was characterized by good will and detailed exactness. The documents that emerged were unanimously approved by those present, and later by the AER board and the other organizations involved. Here is the final wording of the Statement of Principles:
If a child is unable to read print by reason of total blindness or visual impairment, and if literacy skills are to be taught, the child should be taught to read and write Braille by a certified teacher competent to teach Braille literacy skills to the blind, unless by reason of multiple disabilities it is impossible for the child to read Braille.
If a child has a visual impairment and if literacy skills are to be taught, the child should, if the parent or parents want this to be done, be taught to read and write Braille by a certified teacher competent to teach Braille literacy skills to the blind. If a dispute arises between the parent(s) and the local educational agency regarding appropriate reading media, both print and Braille shall be taught.
No teacher should be considered competent to teach Braille literacy skills to the blind unless such teacher has passed the Braille competency test developed by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress. The passing of the Braille competency test should not be considered a substitute for or an alternative to regular training and certification of a teacher but should be in addition to such training and certification.
After we had adopted this Statement of Principles, we proceeded in the spirit of the document to draft proposed amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. We said that the Individualized Education Program for a child who is blind or visually impaired must include a Braille Literacy Plan, and we then adopted the language to make it happen. Here in pertinent part is the wording of the proposed amendments:
The term "Braille Literacy Plan" means the components of an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for a child who is blind or visually impaired which are designed to enable the child to communicate effectively using Braille either exclusively or in combination with other skills.
The plan shall:
(a) be individually developed after the child's present literacy performance and future literacy needs have been evaluated, or independently assessed if the parents or the child, as appropriate, disagree with the results of the evaluation;
(b) be based on the presumption that for the child who is blind or visually impaired effective communications skills commensurate with ability and grade level will often require Braille instruction and use; and
(c) in the event that Braille has not been found necessary for the child's present educational progress or future needs, assure that all members of the team responsible for the IEP have concurred, provided that if any member or members have not concurred, Braille instruction and use will be included in the child's IEP along with other appropriate literacy skills.
STATE PLAN REQUIREMENTS
... set forth assurances that in the expenditure of federal funds for the purchase of textbooks or other educational materials, the state, a local education agency, or an intermediate educational unit, as appropriate, will obtain such materials in electronic text versions appropriate for producing Braille.
... provide satisfactory assurances that the local educational agency or intermediate educational unit will:
(a) establish or revise, whichever is appropriate, a Braille Literacy Plan which shall be incorporated into the Individualized Education Program of each child who is blind or visually impaired as defined in Section 602;
(b) assure that Braille instruction under each such plan is provided by appropriately trained and certified personnel who have demonstrated Braille competency at a level consistent with the National Literary Braille Competency Test adopted by the Library of Congress;
GRANTS FOR PERSONNEL TRAINING
There shall be ... pre-service and in-service training of special education personnel and other personnel in Braille to a level of competency consistent with the National Literary Braille Competency Test developed by the Library of Congress.
This is the substance of the agreements reached at the April 4 meeting and later approved by the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, the American Council of the Blind, the American Foundation for the Blind, and the National Federation of the Blind. At long last the principal organizations in the blindness field of the United States have reached consensus on a major issue. That achievement is momentous. The credit does not belong to any single organization or individual. It belongs to all who participated, and all can share in the pride of accomplishment.
If the commitments that have been made are kept and if the unity of purpose can be expanded to other issues, an unprecedented era of harmony and progress may be opening before us--but before we settle down to celebrate, let us keep in mind that the new partnerships will be difficult to maintain. The building of trust takes time. It requires care, forbearance, and enough sense to understand long-range benefits and self-interest.
And there is something else. We have not won the battle for Braille literacy yet. We have only agreed to join together to fight it. We must negotiate with the Administration and Congress, and we must keep our ranks together and present a common front.
On one thing, however, there can be no doubt. The National Federation of the Blind is absolutely and irrevocably committed to the achievement of Braille literacy for the blind of this country. On this issue we will not equivocate; we will not compromise; and we will not quit. It must--it will be done.
We are demonstrating our commitment by raising tens of thousands of dollars to restore the birthplace of Louis Braille in France--and we are doing it not only as an organization but also as individuals: blind men and women throughout the country with our dollars and dimes, our love and belief. We are continuing to introduce Braille bills in the state legislatures, and we will keep at it until every blind child in the United States has opportunity and hope for the future.
We want no strife or confrontation--but we will do what we have to do. Those who negotiate and engage in diplomacy without the willingness to fight are simply rationalizing their weakness and lack of purpose and will. But those who fight and are not willing to negotiate or engage in diplomacy are rationalizing barbarism and their lack of commitment to constructive objectives. As Harold Stassen said, "The man who kindles the flames of hate and violence lights a fire under his own house."
We know these things, and we are also aware of Dag Hammarsjkold's often quoted statement. He said, "Like the bee, we distill poison from honey for our self-defense. What happens to the bee if it uses its sting is well known. It dies."
Yes, we know that. But we also know something else-- something which Hammarsjkold failed to mention. The individual bee may die if it stings, but the whole hive dies if in proper circumstances it refuses to sting. Through long experience and no small number of exercises in survival, we have learned our lessons well. We will sting if we must, regardless of the cost to each of us personally--but we will survive as an organization and a movement. And we hope to enjoy the honey and live in peace with others and ourselves.
[Photo: Dr. Susan Spungin speaks from the podium. Caption: Dr. Susan Spungin addresses the Convention.]
BRAILLE AND BEYOND
by Susan Jay Spungin
From the Editor: Dr. Susan Spungin is the Vice President of the American Foundation for the Blind for National Program Services. She delivered the following remarks Wednesday afternoon, July 6, 1994, at the Convention of the National Federation of the Blind.
Dr. Jernigan, President Maurer, and friends: I am delighted to have been asked to address the NFB Convention of 1994 here in Detroit, Michigan. The last time I had an opportunity to speak to NFB about Braille was five years ago at your National Convention in Denver, Colorado, in 1989. Many things have happened over these five years that are so significant they deserve review. Looking back at what has taken place in the Braille arena these past five years may help us in thinking about the future.
Braille has always been and always will be more than a tool or means of literacy for those blind individuals who use it as well as for those who don't. As Dr. Fred Schroeder points out in his recent dissertation:
Braille for some represents competency, independence, and equality.
Issues of self-identity and the desire not to be considered blind may affect a legally blind individual's decision to use or not to use Braille as much as or more than the assertion that he or she does not need Braille. Therefore, the Braille problem must be expanded from a literacy issue.
I am not suggesting that I have changed my mind about the importance of Braille issues such as the lack of instruction and production on a timely basis. They are very important issues. However, in the past five years we all have learned that Braille is also a major symptom of larger problems inherent in winning equality of opportunity and freedom of choice for people who are blind or visually impaired.
Personally these past five years have taught me that the road to success is always under construction. Five years ago I discussed eight major reasons for the increasing illiteracy of people who are blind or visually impaired. Briefly they were:
1. Lack of and inappropriate use of demographics statistics on individuals in the U.S. who are blind or visually impaired. Problems of child count and multi-handicapped in reporting under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was a major issue.
2. The emphasis on low vision and the use of print at all costs over the past twenty-five years.
3. Negative attitudes toward blind people and the communication skills they need--Braille--truly unintended, but nonetheless insidious.
4. Lack of standardized Braille teaching methods and quality control of teachers of the visually impaired's knowledge of Braille codes.
5. The complexity of the Braille Code.
6. Technological advances, especially speech output as a viable substitute for Braille.
7. The U.S. educational service delivery system, which often leads to dumping visually impaired youngsters into regular classrooms. No child can learn anything in any academic area from a teacher who visits once a week. And Braille must be considered an academic area.
8. The Individualized Education Program (IEP) process is in many ways a failure model because of how it is defined in the law itself. It sounds great on paper; but in reality limitations, not needs and expectations for the child, often shape their educational programs. For example, the IEP is often based on what the school has in terms of staff and budget.
That NFB presentation was turned into a monograph, published and available free from AFB, naturally in both print and Braille. The title is Braille Literacy: Issues for Blind Persons, Families, Professionals, and Producers of Braille.
In the past five years a great many things have happened as a direct result of groups of individuals and organizations such as the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER), the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), the American Council of the Blind (ACB), the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB), and National Library Service (NLS) working together.
Consumers, families, professionals, and producers of Braille have begun working together to ensure equality of access to all of life's challenges. As Braille is a symptom of a greater problem, the field's work these last five years has had to go beyond Braille in several ways:
1. The validity of the demographics of the blind population continues to inhibit our field from making substantive progress. The federal government reports numbers of blind people declining while states report them increasing.
If I were paranoid, I would think the declining numbers reports intentional, as a means of limiting funding. In reality, as is true with most problems, it is due to many factors. Five organizations--NFB, AFB, ACB, AER, and CNIB--recently held a meeting to determine how best to insure the gathering and use of accurate demographic data on blindness, focusing on issues of definition and public education. Researchers do not ask the question, "Are you blind?" the same way. This makes comparisons of data sets impossible. Not having consistent, accurate numbers limits funding, policy development, and maintenance and growth of existing resources. This group of five organizations hopes to work toward a solution in this area by pooling their collective resources and talents.
2. During the past five years I believe we have seen a shift from overemphasis on use of low vision at all costs to use of Braille as a viable communication tool. Who would have believed in 1989 that all national organizations of and for the blind would have agreed on the principles statement on Braille literacy skills to which Dr. Jernigan referred? I will not reread it, but I will point out for me professionally what I think is one of the most significant sentences in that document. It is as follows:
If a dispute arises between the parent and the LEA regarding the appropriate reading medium, both print and Braille shall be taught until the dispute is resolved through the IEP process.
As Dr. Jernigan indicated, in April of 1994 that statement was translated into a Braille Literacy Amendment signed by all five organizations to guarantee that Braille is viewed as an equal and viable option to print, not as a second-class communication tool, but the key to literacy for the blind in the U.S. More importantly, there was also agreement that when the IEP team cannot reach a decision on appropriate reading media, both Braille and print be taught until a decision is made.
I must admit to all of you here today I have changed my position on the need for Braille bills. I no longer see them as redundant because of the IEP process, but rather as a major factor in bringing the public's attention to the critical needs of children who are blind and visually impaired in this country. [applause] Braille bills have worked, and they have worked well. However, I still believe that Braille bills must discuss not only eligibility criteria but the need for functional assessment as well as appropriate teacher qualifications.
With the closing down of teacher training programs in vision and the move toward "full inclusion," which I will discuss in a minute, separate, identifiable programs for blind children--not to mention the teaching of Braille--are under attack. This has profound implications in terms of our efforts to insure literacy and equality.
The third and fourth issues, negative attitudes and the need for systematic teaching methods in Braille, are closely related. What we do not know and are asked to do we frequently don't like. AFB's National Braille Literacy Initiative, under the direction of Dr. Diane P. Wormsley in our office in Atlanta, is addressing this problem of Braille instruction for teachers both at the pre- service and in-service levels. AFB will publish two books on teaching strategies and tips on Braille later this year. I also recommend highly AFB's new video, "Understanding Braille Literacy." AFB Teacher Mentor Program and Database continues to grow, and if you have not participated and wish to serve as a mentor to other Braille teachers, please contact me at AFB in New York.
AFB is also working on developing Braille teaching strategies for adults who have become blind--a major need in the field that I know the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) and NFB are working on as well. There are other positive developments as well. Thanks to Kurt Cylke and the National Library of Congress we have now the potential for quality control of teacher knowledge of the Braille Code. Although many states have developed their own Braille test, it is nice to know there is at last a National Standard--thank you, Mr. Cylke.[applause]
Exciting--and for some frightening--things are happening with the Braille Code too. Dr. Hilda Caton, Chair of BANA, was to speak on her work regarding the Unified Code and the International Community. In this area my mind has been changed too. I believe now, due to the complexity of the needs of multihandicapped and visually impaired children, that there is a place for grade one Braille instruction and even, would you believe, MOON type!
Now let's look to the future and especially technology. We cannot help but wonder what electronic books might do to Braille usage. The Joint Organizational Effort (JOE) has addressed this issue with a statement regarding electronic books. Although JOE applauds the work of APH and Recording for the Blind (RFB) and other entities engaged in the development, promotion, and distribution of electronic books, it reminds manufacturers and distributors of such materials that current electronic formats are no substitute for hard copy Braille, and that a less expensive, more easily produced format not be allowed to supplant hard copy Braille texts. Once again freedom to choose Braille and its availability could be threatened.
As wonderful as the information superhighway is, the reality is that blind people are being left in the back seat. Now more than ever we must insure access to information in Braille, not exclusively, but always available as a choice.
We need to work together, side by side with present and future programmers and technologists, to insure that gains we have made in literacy for the blind will not be run over in the name of access to information for all. Issues of accessibility of output as well as graphical user interfaces (GUI's) are problems that cannot wait to be solved by someone else.
We, as a field, cannot afford to take a reactive stance but rather must work with and assist the technocrats and information brokers of today and the future. This one area alone can change for better or for worse the future of literacy for the blind. AFB plans to continue, with others, to take a strong leadership role in the area of the impact of technology on information access for the blind. It is not acceptable for progress to be made at the expense of others.
Let me now speak to the last two issues, that is, the impact of the Special Educational Service Delivery Models, and, hopefully inherent in that, the IEP process. If I were asked to point to one movement in the field of special education that poses the greatest threat to the education of children who are blind or visually impaired, it would be full inclusion.[applause] The movement toward full inclusion as defined in the May 1993, Joint Organizational Effort position statement states that:
"Full inclusion," a philosophical concept currently advanced by a number of educators, is not a federal requirement of special education. Proponents of full inclusion nevertheless take the position that all students with disabilities must receive their total instruction in the regular public school classroom regardless of individual needs. Unfortunately, full inclusion would eliminate all special placements, including pull-out services, resource rooms, and specialized schools. Such an arrangement would be detrimental to the educational development of many students with disabilities.
The field of blindness does not support full inclusion or any policies that mandate the same placement, instruction, or treatment for all students who are blind or visually impaired. Many of these children benefit from being served in the regular classroom. However, the regular education classroom is not the appropriate placement for a number of children who are blind or visually impaired because they may need alternative instructional environments, teaching strategies, and materials that cannot or will not be provided within the context of a regular classroom placement.
If we regard inclusion as a religious principle, if we disregard the differences among the students who are blind or visually impaired, if we continue to insist that the least restrictive environment (LRE) is some absolute standard rather than a continuum of variability that has truth only for each individual in question, we will lose some of the most valuable and creative citizens in our community.[applause]
We face three immediate tasks: keeping the issue of educational placement in perspective, choosing idea over image, and avoiding fanaticism.
The major hope, however, is that the full inclusion movement is being profiled as part of the Education Reform Act, known to many of us as Education Goals 2000. Our major hope and greatest supporters opposing inclusive education are none other than the regular classroom teachers and the teachers' unions: AFT and UFT, who do not mince words. They justifiably believe that inclusion threatens the academic achievements of all children, and they are right! They are concerned about the growing insensitivity to the unique needs of exceptional children. Inclusion is mainstreaming with a vengeance. In the name of integration it guarantees failure for students and teachers alike. As the JOE position paper on inclusion states:
We strongly urge that decision makers carefully consider and be sensitive to the impact of reform initiatives on the education of students with visual disabilities. Caution must be exercised to insure that educational philosophy and trends such as full inclusion do not seriously endanger appropriate and specialized services for students who are blind or visually impaired. If properly implemented, IDEA can provide legal safeguards to insure that all individual children can realize their full potential for independence and success.
As Albert Shanker, the head of the AFT, states:
The abuse must stop and give common sense and sound educational policy a chance to prevail--full inclusion is becoming more widely practiced based on budgetary and social motivation, not what classrooms need to be about, education.[applause]
The need to define disability as an overarching generic condition for purposes of program design, administration, and funding continues to be the main issue that I believe we will still be fighting as we enter the twenty-first century. It is an issue for all blind people: for children it is inclusion, for adults it is the fight for identifiable agencies, and for the elderly it is the exclusive use of the medical model, ignoring the disability rights or independent living model with its emphasis on pride in group identification, which allows for choice and the respecting of different means of functioning. So, as important as Braille literacy is, it may be considered merely the tip of the iceberg, for Braille represents information and education, and we all know that is the currency of the future. Information--being able to manage it and manipulate it--is very important to our success as an economic power and our dignity and perceived self-worth as individuals. It is therefore important that, whatever educational system we have, we ensure there is choice in learning and a choice in access to that system's information. The issue of literacy and access to information now and in the future will determine everyone's potential in life.
We know from our rich history when inclusion or (as we called it in the fifties) integration works and when it does not. Learn from our mistakes. Do not repeat them. I often worry that we are not seeing the forest because of the trees. We all are climbing the ladder toward equality with the best of intentions; I just hope the ladder is on the right wall. Please, let us all continue, as we have these past five years, to work together and get that road to success that is under construction up and running.
[Photo: Dr. Emerson Foulke speaks from the podium. Caption: Dr. Emerson Foulke presents remarks prepared by Dr. Hilda Caton.]
PARTNERSHIP OF AGENCIES AND CONSUMERS
Summary of Remarks Prepared by Hilda Caton
From the Editor: Dr. Hilda Caton, Director of the Braille Research Center at the American Printing House for the Blind and long-time advocate for Braille, was recovering from surgery and was therefore unable to address the convention as part of this panel. Her colleague at the Braille Research Center and a Federationist, Dr. Emerson Foulke, spoke in her place using notes that she had prepared. The following is a summary of his remarks:
When the influx of large numbers of blind youngsters due to retrolental fibroplasia hit the nation's schools in the early fifties, very few of their special education teachers knew Braille well enough to teach it effectively. And those who did usually had such large territories to cover that they could not spend enough time with any one child to do a good job of teaching proper use of the code. When professional educators then observed the Braille skills of all these children, they concluded that Braille must be very hard to teach and to learn and that any other alternative would be better and certainly easier to provide. The children themselves certainly didn't know enough to insist on being taught Braille, so the demand for it declined and the conclusion that it was no longer needed became widespread.
In recent years blind people have begun to speak out in defense of Braille, and the National Federation of the Blind has played a central part in reversing the anti-Braille trend. The National Association to Promote the Use of Braille has urged children to read Braille and has honored people who have played an important part in increasing the availability of Braille and in increasing its usefulness. The state Braille bills have been important, and the effort to pass a piece of federal Braille legislation will be an important fight in the months ahead.
Work has also continued in developing instructional materials for teaching Braille. Dr. Caton began her career teaching Braille at a time when it was still being taught well, and she was certainly a good teacher. She has spent a good deal of her working life in educational research at the Printing House, developing good teaching material for both children and adults. Patterns and Read Again are examples of her ground- breaking work in this area.
For some time Dr. Caton had believed that a partnership between producers and consumers of Braille could develop particularly useful materials and programs. She was proven correct when the Printing House and the NFB joined together in submitting a proposal for a grant from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research. Its title was the Braille Literacy: Training, Mentoring, and Technological Services Program for Blind Adults. As funded it had three components. First, new materials were developed for teaching Braille to blind adults. They were created by APH and reviewed and critiqued by a panel of Federationists who were experienced Braille readers. The resulting manual was tested in the three NFB adult rehabilitation centers in Louisiana, Colorado, and Minnesota and the New Mexico Commission's adult orientation center. Second, a mentoring system was established through which mentors were identified and trained before being assigned to work with newly trained Braille readers. The idea was to assist new readers to solve their ongoing reading problems; help them to find the materials they need and, in general, encourage them to continue to use Braille until it becomes an indispensable tool for them.
Third was the gathering of reviews of the technology involved in Braille production. David Andrews is the coordinator of this project, and responsibility for producing the reviews has been given to the NFB Research and Development committee.
Books have now been written in connection with all three parts of the grant. The Braille Connection is the teaching book. The Braille Connection: a Guidebook for Mentors is the handbook developed to assist the mentoring team. The first volume of technology reviews is almost ready for production. It includes information about Braille-production hardware and software, e.g., refreshable Braille displays, Braille printers, and Braille- translation programs. Two other volumes are being planned: one on DOS-based reading systems and one for Windows-based programs.
The partnership between the Printing House and the NFB has been so successful that the two are jointly writing another grant, this time to the Rehabilitation Services Administration. If funded, this project would work with state rehabilitation agency Braille teachers and the university programs that train them to improve their mastery of Braille. The effort would be to enable blind clients of these agencies to receive better Braille instruction as a result.
Dr. Foulke said in closing that Dr. Caton had often commented that she has always recognized the importance of consumer participation in the development of Braille materials. But when she actually had her first experience working closely with the NFB panel of Braille users, she realized in a new way that she should have been doing so throughout her entire career.
[Photo: Dr. Homer Page reads Braille from the podium. Caption: Dr. Homer Page, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado, describes the struggle to pass his state's Braille bill.]
HOW TO PASS A BRAILLE BILL
by Homer Page
From the Editor: Dr. Homer Page is the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado. He is also an experienced politician in his own right. He has enjoyed a long career as an elected official in Boulder, Colorado, and currently serves as Chairman of the County's Board of Commissioners. He knows how to organize people effectively in order to get a political job done. This is the way he described the Colorado affiliate's struggle to persuade the legislature to pass the state's Braille bill last spring:
"Blind Bill Raised from the Dead," read the newspaper headline. I received several phone calls. "Who is this fellow, Blind Bill?" they wanted to know.
Representative Dorothy Rupert introduced House Bill 1148, our Braille Literacy Bill, into the Colorado House of Representatives in early January, 1994. Representative Rupert is a Democrat in a House which has a thirty-four to thirty-one Republican majority. However, she had an understanding of why this legislation is important to blind persons, and she had the commitment to join in legislative combat with powerful forces in order to get our legislation passed.
During the previous two years the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado, Colorado AER, Colorado Department of Education, the University of Northern Colorado Vision Education Program, and the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind had been working together to develop a consensus position with regard to Braille literacy. A needs assessment was conducted, and a conference was held which focused on how to assess a child's need for Braille instruction. A collaborative mood seemed to have been developed. However, in December, 1993, things began to come undone. The Colorado AER took the data from the needs assessment study and independently wrote a report which concluded that there was no need for a Braille literacy bill in Colorado.
In early January the Braille Literacy Committee of AER invited me to meet with them. They read the report to me with its conclusions. I thanked them for the report and asked them if they wanted to work with me right then to draft a bill that we could take across the street to the capitol to have introduced. They said that they would. Once again a collaborative position had been developed.
H.B. 1148 had its first hearing before the House Education Committee in mid-February. We filled the House Hearing Room with Federationists. We emphasized the collaborative approach that had taken place to develop this legislation and the multi-model approach to literacy which it embodied. Brenda Shepard, the CAER past president, spoke on behalf of the bill. She had worked very hard to develop a collaborative environment. However, two teachers attacked the bill. Lobbyists from the two largest Colorado school districts also asked the House Education Committee to kill the bill. The committee chairman and vice- chairman opposed the bill, but we had done our homework. We had previously spoken independently with the members of the Committee. The bill passed out of that Committee on a six-to- three vote.[applause]
The passage of H.B. 1148 in the House Education Committee was but the first skirmish in what would be a protracted war. The newly elected Colorado AER President opposed the bill. Teachers began to call legislators expressing their opposition. Dr. Susan Newhart-Larson wrote a widely quoted letter in which she asserted, "Only a small but powerful group [the NFB] supported this legislation." Representative Norma Anderson, the powerful Education Committee Chairman, threw her personal power and influence into the battle. She tried intensely to kill our Braille bill. She seemed to take special delight in quoting Dr. Newhart-Larson's letter saying, "Only a small but powerful group supported this legislation."
However, we were not without our resources. We had a simple strategy. We needed to solidify our Democratic vote and pick up just two Republican legislators. The NFB of Colorado swung into action. We made assignments. Our members called legislators. We locked the Democrats in place. Our bill was finally to come up on second reading. Second reading in the Colorado House of Representatives is done before a committee of the whole. The Committee of the whole votes and then recommends later to the House acting in its official capacity. When the time came for our bill to appear, we filled the gallery with Federationists. The bill was to be heard in the morning, but it kept being put off. Through the day Representatives Rubert and Anderson worked the floor of the House.
Finally, when the time for the vote occurred, Representative Rupert had enough votes by one, but when the votes were counted, the outcome was a tie. Our decisive vote came in just as the voting had closed. The bill was dead. We were in a state of despair.
As I said, however, it is the procedure of the House that the report must be made before the House in its official capacity. When that report was made, Representative Rupert moved to amend the report of the Committee of the whole to say that H.B. 1148 had passed. This time she had all of her votes there; it passed by one![applause] Our Braille Bill had been raised from the dead.
We weren't done yet, however; we still had to face a third reading in the House. Federationists continued to call potential Republican supporters. On third reading the bill passed by a vote of thirty-seven to twenty-six.[applause] We were through the first chamber of the legislature.
Senator Sally Hopper carried our bill in the Senate. She received many calls and letters. These calls and letters also attacked the Braille Literacy Bill. They seemed to be saying that the NFB had done good work in getting dog guide legislation passed, but we were overstepping ourselves by addressing educational issues. The teachers knew what was best for blind children, not the blind themselves. One of the letters came from a teacher in a school district who said that in her district there were thirty-one low vision children, and thanks to three of those children being from one family, there were nine of the thirty-one who were receiving Braille instruction. I could have kissed her! The letter was a gift from heaven.
I prepared a response to the letters from the teachers for Senator Hopper to use. When our bill came up before the Senate Education Committee, we took on the assertions of the teachers and of the CAER. We attacked their report on the needs assessment study. We said that the data didn't support the conclusions. We said that it was self-serving and that ninety-seven percent of the teachers who had filled out the survey indicated that visual acuity was the key factor in determining whether a child should or should not receive Braille instruction. We prepared testimony given by young blind persons from around Colorado. They told how their lives had been injured because they had not been offered Braille instruction when they were students. Our bill passed the Senate Education Committee on a six-to-zero vote.[applause]
On May 5, Governor Roy Romer signed our bill into law.[applause] We had been told by the president of the Colorado AER in legislative testimony that statistics nationally indicated that only eleven percent of blind children were Braille-literate, and in Colorado the figure was seventeen percent. Therefore, there was no need for Braille legislation in Colorado, and Colorado should be a model for the nation. We referred to that as the seventeen percent solution. I talked with Norma Anderson after the hearing before the House committee. I asked her what we could do to make her feel better about the Braille legislation. She said, "No, nothing--I intend to kill this bill." I said to her, "Then I suppose all we can do is count the votes." Well the votes have been counted, and we do have Braille legislation in Colorado.[applause]
We may or may not be a small group; we may or may not be a powerful group, but I believe that we have demonstrated that we can take on powerful forces, and we can prevail.[applause] There has been much conflict in Colorado over the passage of the Braille Literacy Bill. When the bill was signed in the Governor's office, a broad cross-section of the education community was present. We believe that this bodes well for the implementation of the Braille Bill in Colorado. We believe that it is a time for healing. The National Federation of the Blind of Colorado is ready for that healing. We believe that it is important for us to work in a spirit of friendship and collaboration with teachers and administrators to implement H.B. 1148. Only if we can work in that spirit will the children of our state realize the full benefits connected with a Braille literacy bill.
However, we intend to have this bill implemented.[applause] We will work in a spirit of collaboration if others will join us. If they will not, we will find other means. We will not stand by and allow a generation of blind children to grow up into the demanding world of the twenty-first century without the basic skills that they need to compete.
The children of Colorado and the nation depend on us. We shall not fail them. Thank you.[applause]
[Photo: Barbara McCarthy speaks from the podium. Caption: Barbara McCarthy, newly elected President of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, speaks to the Convention.]
GROWTH AND ADVANCEMENT FOR THE BLIND
by Barbara McCarthy
From the Editor: When Barbara McCarthy addressed the NFB Convention on the afternoon of July 6, 1994, she was the President-elect of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER). A week later she became that organization's president. Her relationship with Federation officials has been frank and cordial. This is what she had to say:
Good Afternoon. I'm honored to have been invited to attend and address the annual Convention of the National Federation of the Blind. I must tell you that this is a day of firsts for me: it's my first visit to Detroit, the first NFB Conference that I've attended, and the first time I have ever spoken before so many people. When Dr. Jernigan invited me to come to Detroit, I told him that I would be extremely nervous to speak in front of 3,000 people; he laughed and assured me I would be fine. Well, I have to tell you, as I stand here before you, I'm comforting myself with the words of Edmund Burke. To paraphrase, he said, "Wrestling strengthens one's nerves and sharpens one's skills." I'm having a wonderful workout right now!
My remarks to you have been titled "Growth and Advancement for the Blind," (a subject that could take days to cover adequately), and I do intend to address that topic specifically, but I'd like to deviate for a few minutes.
Prior to coming, I spoke with Dr. Jernigan about what you would like to hear me speak about, and he and I discussed some of the things that he mentioned earlier when he was discussing the Braille amendment issue. Some of the things that I intended to speak with you about really relate to all of that and to AER. I really wanted to take this opportunity to talk about some of the things that concern you, and there is a relationship between that and growth and advancement.
Initially I want to tell you a little bit about myself, because most of you don't know me at all. I think that will help you understand where I come from and what some of my goals will be in the future. On July 13 I will become the President of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired. Many of you do not know me, but I thought perhaps you would be curious to know more of Barbara McCarthy and what I represent. I am not really sure that my undergraduate degree in psychology adequately prepared me for the organizational work in which I have become involved, but I'll admit that I have relied upon it on occasion. After college I worked in Virginia providing personal management skills instruction to recently blinded adults and young children, as an employee of what was then the Virginia Commission for the Visually Handicapped. I was fresh out of college and wet behind the ears; but a college classmate of mine was blind, and (thanks to her example) I came to the job with the impression that blind people could succeed at anything. Armed with that attitude, I convinced the agency to hire and train me.
After several years in that position I realized that I had developed a keen interest in working with blind children. The conviction that the blind children who are provided with the education and training they deserve become successful adults was burning strong within me. Subsequently, I taught in the Blind Department at the Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind at Staunton and earned a master's of education degree in education of the visually impaired from the University of Virginia. After a move to Richmond I was hired by the Virginia Department for the Visually Handicapped to write grants (which I might add were funded!), and since February of 1985 I have been Director of the Instructional Materials and Resource Center in Virginia, where I am responsible for providing blind children with Braille and large-print textbooks, as well as equipment and tangible aids. Additionally, I plan annual workshops for teachers of the visually impaired and have recently been designated to coordinate transition services for blind youth.
I am particularly proud of two accomplishments in my current job: Virginia has a strong Braille transcribing program, and I was able to develop a system for sharing and selling Braille textbooks to other states. This service grew beyond my wildest imagination. Not only did we receive requests for textbooks, but also for original Braille work for businesses, agencies, and individuals. Since this was well beyond the scope of my Materials Center, I was able to establish a Braille services unit through the Enterprise Program, which provides on-demand Braille to other agencies, organizations, private businesses, and individuals.
When I took my first Braille course, I never dreamed that Braille would become so important in my work and such a significant part of my life. I currently spend some part of every workday discussing issues related to Braille--items about translation of textbooks, use of software, training of transcribers and proofreaders, questions about codes and tactile graphics, materials to be used in the production of texts, training of teachers--well, obviously, the list could go on.
In addition to the areas I've just mentioned, I have been directly involved in developing language that will change and strengthen the existing Braille bill in my state. This spring I have participated in a collaborative effort with representatives from the Virginia Department of Education, the Department for the Visually Handicapped, teachers of the visually impaired, the Council of the Blind, and Charles Brown and Deborah Prost from NFB. I know that Charlie Brown will tell you that our meetings have been extremely productive, and the end result appears to be a bill that will ensure that all blind children in Virginia will be afforded the opportunity to learn Braille; that they will be instructed by competent, knowledgeable teachers; and that publishers will be required to provide the texts in electronic format. I'd like to acknowledge Charlie Brown for his persistent and appropriate reminders to the group about the presumption of Braille.
Most noteworthy in this process was the fact that we agreed on the key elements: blind children need to learn to read and write Braille, and there must be a way to ensure that teachers are completely knowledgeable and literate in Braille. Frankly, the only difficulty to the process came in the hammering out of the precise language necessary to reflect our intent. Many of you, I'm sure, have been or are involved in similar efforts (and we just heard about Colorado's). I must say that some of what I heard really disheartened me. When you have a collaborative effort going on, and you hear about ones that are not, it's discouraging, and I'll speak to that a little bit further along in my remarks. But I hope that those of you who are still engaged in developing Braille bills will have as fruitful an effort as we had in Virginia.
Although I was not directly involved in the development of the Braille bill to amend the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act that Dr. Jernigan referred to earlier (it was adopted by ACB, AER, AFB, and NFB) I am aware of some of the initial problems that arose prior to the forging of that amendment. When the group finally sat down together, there was basic agreement about the key elements. Let me assure you that when the AER Board of Directors was asked to take action on the Joint Organizational Effort amendment, the approval was unanimous; the Board of Directors felt strongly enough as a group to support the amendment.
Let me take this opportunity to diverge a bit more. Dr. Jernigan suggested that I might address a couple of specific issues, and out of respect for him I will do so. This seems to be the appropriate time. Dr. Jernigan and I have discussed the fact that AER operates with a Board of Directors that is responsible for taking action for the organization. Dr. Jernigan has also expressed to me that he thinks that AER has less force in negotiations if the president is unable to act without this approval. He has also indicated that he is troubled over the fact that, when the AER Board does act, there may not be total agreement among the state chapters.
Regarding the Braille amendment, although the AER Board had previously accepted a Braille position statement that was developed by the Joint Organizational Effort, which supported the principles behind the Braille amendment, approval of an amendment to federal law had never been discussed by the Board. The Board had to have an opportunity to review the issue because its genesis occurred between Board meetings, and the concept of an amendment to federal law had never been discussed at a Board meeting. Now we can certainly debate this point, but one thing remains clear and distinctive--AER was established as an organization that is accountable to its members through the Board of Directors. Some may say, "That is AER's weakness when collaborating with other organizations." I say it is AER's strength. AER is an organization of professionals who do have different opinions and voices, and through listening to different sides of issues we are able to grow.
Sometimes we are slow as a group to see things differently. The organization was designed very differently from NFB. We represent a number of different disciplines and elements. We may not be able to unite on all issues the way that you do, and that is clearly your strength. Perhaps some AER chapters or some members will disagree with action that the Board takes. That is their right, but it is also something that members of a board- administered organization have to accept--that is, that their elected representatives are responsible for making decisions. The Board of AER is also responsible for educating and bringing along the members. New guidelines, such as those set forth in the Braille Amendment to IDEA, impact the members of AER more than any other group; the natural human reaction is to be apprehensive of change, particularly when you are the one most directly affected. The AER Board of Directors acted in a manner determined to be appropriate, and it is the hope and desire of the Board that all members will come to see that.
Looking ahead, what I can say and what I have promised Dr. Jernigan is that I will be open and honest. Issues that are new and potentially controversial will have to be discussed with the Board, and I want to make that perfectly clear. There are some issues and situations, however, in which the AER President can act without prior approval. There will be times when Board approval must be sought, but the approval can be expedited. I have expressed to Dr. Jernigan, and I want to assure you, that in negotiations with NFB and the Committee on Joint Organizational Effort I will be mindful of the nature and importance of the negotiations, and I will act accordingly.
With an eye to the future I know there are important issues in which we have organizational disagreement. I can't speak with you today about specifics, but we all know what some of these issues and concerns are. My extreme hope and desire is that these issues will be brought forth for reasonable and open discussion. I hope that my organization will take the initiative and opportunity to do some self-examination and reflection in order to open and broaden our horizon. I see change on that horizon, and I fully intend to guide AER in that direction.
As we look ahead to growth and advancement of the blind in the next century, I'd like to take the remaining time to briefly mention an important issue. Currently there is an issue facing all of us that will change the course of how we access information. I am, of course, talking about the National Information Infrastructure. Technological advancements have created the potential for persons with disabilities to access information in ways that will allow control and independence over information and their lives. Unfortunately, the speed and scope of these advancements have not allowed for the development of products and services that are accessible to all members of society, and specifically to the blind. Legislation will have to address this situation. We all have a responsibility to ensure accessibility for the future.
The educator in me is most concerned about what the classrooms of the not-so-distant future will look like, how we will have educational access to the National Information Infrastructure. The potential for blind children is enormous, if due consideration is given now. This advancement in information exchange will have a universal effect, and it is imminent. Members of The National Federation of the Blind have consistently led the way in educating the public about what blind people can achieve. I urge you to remain abreast of this issue, to advocate when appropriate, and to use your powers of persuasion to influence policy.
Thank you for the opportunity to attend your National Convention and to address you as a group. I do have a strong conviction that together our organizations can have tremendous influence and be effective. We won't agree on all issues, but the more we talk, the more we find we can agree. I look forward to meeting some of you individually (all of you isn't quite realistic), and to working with you in the future.
I'd like to think my workout might be over, but I understand that the agenda lists a time for questions. I'm willing to entertain questions now, but I'd like to invite you to speak with me individually since I'll be here with you this evening.
In the question period that followed, Dr. Jernigan began by saying:
Let me be sure that I am understood about what I regard as a problem for AER. Some people could say, "It's not your business," but it is my business because what AER does affects all of us as blind people and because we need AER and we need AER strong and able to function well. Part of that is that it must not rationalize a problem by saying that problem is really a strength. Realistically speaking, AER is not more democratic than other organizations in this field, nor does it have more diversity. AER is made up of people who are fairly like-minded-- mostly professionals in the field. That's fine; nobody criticizes that. AER has a board, and that board is no more responsive than this board or any other board. But very often AER's elected officials go off and negotiate in good faith and then come back, and their board seems, at least to the rest of us in the field, to engage in a lot of lost motion. It seems to me that all of us have a stake in AER's trying to tighten its process up.
Ultimately what AER does is its business, but there is a problem in a confederacy. The Confederacy was not more democratic than the Federal Union. So I for one hope that AER will address this problem and that it will address it as a problem, not rationalizing it as a strength. Representative democracy is desirable; we'd all agree with that. AER has some good, strong leaders, and AER has an invaluable part to play in this field. We are going to have to move fast and decisively in the years ahead if we're going to save programs for the blind in this country. We need to work closely and harmoniously with each other. I doubt if we will disagree on as many items as might be thought. With respect to Braille, we simply have too many teachers who came up in a system in which they just plain didn't learn Braille. They are not bad people; they simply are moved by the impulse that prompts us all to save our own hides.
In response Mrs. McCarthy said, "I couldn't agree more with about half of what you just said."
A little later in the discussion Dr. Jernigan said: Here is a problem I want to present to this audience and to the people on the panel. It's all very well to agree on generalities. When you come to specifics, though, especially if your own job is involved, it's almost beyond human expectation to see things objectively. Change is difficult. We asked the National Library Service to develop a Braille literacy competency test. NLS is good at that sort of thing. Mr. Cylke got people in the field together, including those in the university programs, and in meeting after meeting they hammered this test out and agreed to it. The results of the first administration of that test are now in. We have to be careful now that the people who said they favored the test don't now try to worm out of it by saying, "The test is too hard, it doesn't really test; it is invalid." Let me read you the letter Mr. Cylke wrote me; that's the easiest way:
I am writing to provide a brief preliminary report on activity related to the National Literary Braille Competency Test developed by NLS at the request of the JOE Committee.
As of June 23, 1994, the National Literary Braille Competency Test has been administered to thirty-nine people. Thirty-three of these tests have been scored. Of this number, three individuals have passed. Two of these people are lifelong Braille users. The third person to pass works as a paraprofessional in a classroom and has been Brailling materials for several years.
The thirty people who failed are sighted and for the most part in teacher preparation programs. Six individuals indicated that they are teachers of visually impaired children in an "alternative certification program." Twenty-two are college students in teacher preparation programs, some currently teaching in a regular classroom and working toward certification with visually impaired individuals. Two are transcribers providing support to the classroom teachers.
There is more to this letter. Some people have expressed shock when I have told them that thirty people who are university graduates or who are working in university programs took this test and failed it. I said, "I'm not shocked at all." The university programs, as they are currently structured, don't really teach people how to read and write Braille. That's our problem! How can they teach Braille when they don't know it themselves? A lot of people will read into my comments that I am opposed to education, or that I am opposed to universities, or that I am opposed to Braille courses. Not at all. What I am saying is that these programs must be beefed up. New emphasis must be placed on Braille. Not only we, but people throughout the agency establishment and throughout the profession want this done, too. This points up our problem. I said to Mr. Cylke, "Don't you dare go and soften the test because someone couldn't pass it." Make it an honest test.
Susan Spungin then commented:
I don't think anyone sitting up here is surprised, unfortunately, about the failure rate on the test from the National Library Service. We have been talking about the problem for many years. I hope that we can put our energies toward finding a solution rather than hoping that it will just get better or that the test will be softened so that more people will pass. The solution lies in developing proper materials. We do not have the materials we need to train teachers in Braille in a variety of circumstances. That's why I got into the question of different models for teaching teachers. It is inexcusable that those in university programs could not pass that test, and they should not get their degrees until they pass it. Hopefully better quality control will be the positive fallout from that test.
But there are presently many, many teachers working in the field with blind children who haven't seen a blind child for several years and simply do not remember the Braille code, or maybe they never knew it very well. That's a problem. We need to get materials to them to train them. We need to develop systems to ensure that they will be able to learn Braille and improve their competence. We cannot ignore or forget about all those people out there who are working with our children. The answer is to help them, and together we must develop materials and delivery systems to insure that every teacher working with blind children in this country is competent in literacy.
Dr. Jernigan agreed and added:
It will take the best efforts of all of us to develop the materials and to bring about a new climate. At the same time we must see that people don't try just to get by. It's been a vicious circle: they've not known Braille, so they've not taught Braille to children, so they have not needed Braille, so they haven't known it. I agree with you; we do know the problem. And people of good will in this field, blind and sighted, consumers and professionals, must work together. This points up the problem and where we've got to go.
Rami Rabbi asked one final question of Mrs. McCarthy. He said:
Mrs. McCarthy, you said you came to the field of work with the blind, because of your experiences in college, believing that blind people could succeed in anything. Does that mean that you yourself are at odds with Division IX of AER, which clearly believes that totally blind people, at least, cannot succeed in one area particularly, namely mobility and orientation teaching?
Dr. Jernigan then intervened by saying that he was not there to protect the speaker but that as a member of the diplomatic corps Rami could probably appreciate that, as a new president, Mrs. McCarthy might well have to give a soft rather than a hard answer to that question if she hoped to effect change in her organization.
Mrs. McCarthy agreed that she could not speak publicly on the question at this time, but she added that she would have been disappointed if she had not been asked it.
[Photo: Mr. Maurer, Ramona Walhof, and Sheryl Pickering sit at the Resolutions Committee head table. Mr. Maurer is speaking into the microphone. Caption: President Maurer addresses the Resolutions Committee as Ramona Walhof (center), Committee Chairman, and Sheryl Pickering, Committee Secretary, look on.] [Photo: A crowd of Federationists sit in the Resolutions Committee meeting audience. Caption: Hundreds of Federationists attend the annual meeting of the Resolutions Committee, which takes place on the afternoon of convention registration day.]
RESOLUTIONS ADOPTED BY THE ANNUAL CONVENTION OF THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
by Ramona Walhof
From the Editor: Ramona Walhof is the Secretary of the National Federation of the Blind and President of the NFB of Idaho. She also serves as the Chairman of the Resolutions Committee. Each year she presides over the receipt and handling of all resolutions until they are acted upon by the convention. This is what she has to say about the resolutions considered at the 1994 convention of the National Federation of the Blind:
The National Federation of the Blind takes seriously resolutions proposed and resolutions passed by the convention. Any resolution passed by the convention constitutes a policy statement of the organization, and goals expressed in the resolutions become a part of our march toward independence and first-class citizenship for the blind.
Resolutions may be brought directly to the floor of the convention by the Board of Directors. But any member of the NFB may also present a resolution to the Resolutions Committee for its consideration. That person must then be present both when the resolution is debated by the Committee and when it is brought to the floor. Certainly the more common procedure is through the Resolutions Committee, which may not bottle up any resolution.
The Committee reads and considers all resolutions brought to it and takes them to the floor of the convention with the recommendation "do pass" or "do not pass." The Resolutions Committee does not rewrite resolutions; it merely discusses them, votes them up or down, and carries them to the floor of the convention. Generally speaking, the convention follows the recommendations of the Committee, but there have been exceptions to this pattern.
In 1993 we established a new policy that resolutions should be in the hands of the President or the committee chairman at least two weeks before the Committee meeting at the convention. This has made it possible (in the event that two resolutions on the same topic are presented) to work out differences and problems. It has also made it possible to check on questions of fact when they arise. In short, this change has improved the work of the Committee and the quality of the resolutions.
At this year's convention nineteen resolutions were presented, and eighteen were passed. One was withdrawn. As usual, we provide here the full texts of all the resolutions passed in Detroit by the 1994 NFB Convention. First I will attempt to give a brief description of each:
Resolution 94-01 seeks appropriate certification of blind cane travel teachers by AER and calls upon RSA to review training programs for mobility teachers to see that they do not discriminate against the blind.
Resolution 94-02 seeks class-wide recognition of blind persons as socially disadvantaged when applying for loans and contracts through the Small Business Administration and commends Congressman John Lafalce and the other members of the House Small Business Committee and Congressman Jim Ramstad and the other ninety-three co-sponsors of the Americans with Disabilities Business Development Act for the work they have done to improve business opportunities for the blind.
Resolution 94-03 seeks to maintain a continuum of choices in the educational placement of blind children.
Resolution 94-04 calls upon RSA to adopt regulations which prohibit use of funds for support groups that are controlled by agencies serving the blind rather than organizations of the blind themselves.
Resolution 94-05 calls upon the Department of Veterans Affairs to support the Randolph-Sheppard Act and to issue permits for vending facilities according to its provisions.
Resolution 94-06 calls upon the American Council on Education and the GED Testing Service to change their policies so that blind persons may use readers when taking GED examinations.
Resolution 94-07 expresses the interest of the blind in the modernization of U.S. currency and expresses our determination to educate the public to the fact that blind persons can and do handle their own money, no matter how it looks or feels.
Resolution 94-08 was withdrawn.
Resolution 94-09 calls upon Congress to increase the appropriation to NLS to maintain and improve library services to the blind, including the replacement of old and worn-out cassette and disc players.
Resolution 94-10 seeks national legislation providing for independent living services for the blind separate from independent living councils for groups with other disabilities.
Resolution 94-11 calls upon guide dog schools to stress to students the importance of learning and always using effective methods of picking up after guide dogs.
Resolution 94-12 condemns the Department of Transportation's insistence that detectable warnings must be installed on subway platforms and commends the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area Transit Authority for resisting this requirement.
Resolution 94-13 calls upon the Department of Education to disapprove grant applications from schools and agencies that discriminate against the blind when hiring cane travel instructors.
Resolution 94-14 calls upon Congress and the Department of Education to include Braille literacy requirements in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act amendments.
Resolution 94-15 calls on Congress to pass H.R. 3264 and S. 2161 to improve work incentives for SSI recipients.
Resolution 94-16 calls upon the Social Security Administration and Congress to move forward with the approval and implementation of re-engineering and streamlining a plan for the disability determination process.
Resolution 94-17 condemns sub-minimum wages in sheltered workshops and asks that NFB representatives be included when a new minimum wage proposal is developed.
Resolution 94-18 calls upon RSA and state rehabilitation agencies to adopt regulations that promote, not discourage, client choice in rehabilitation.
Resolution 94-19 opposes means testing for Social Security benefits paid to retirees and disabled persons.
WHEREAS, one of the major factors in the growing independence of blind persons in the Twentieth Century has been the development and skillful use of the long white cane; and
WHEREAS, a principal element in the process is proper instruction in the use of the cane; and
WHEREAS, from the earliest days many of the most successful mobility instructors of the blind have been blind themselves-- others, of course, being sighted; and
WHEREAS, mobility instructors of the blind have traditionally been trained by state agencies and others who have employed them, and more recently by universities; and
WHEREAS, many of the university-trained mobility instructors have joined the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER) and, particularly, its Division IX for Orientation and Mobility Instructors; and
WHEREAS, Division IX has proclaimed that it has the sole right to certify, or withhold certification from, those wishing to teach orientation and mobility to the blind; and
WHEREAS, despite the fact that many blind persons are competently working in state rehabilitation agencies for the blind and elsewhere as mobility instructors, Division IX refuses to certify such blind instructors, contending that they cannot successfully perform the duties of the job; and
WHEREAS, the state rehabilitation agencies for the blind, which are the primary employers of orientation and mobility specialists, have by resolution rejected the practice of disqualifying blind mobility instructors; and
WHEREAS, such disqualification is contrary to federal law, current practice in the field, traditional wisdom and experience, and the best interests of the profession and blind trainees; and
WHEREAS, there have been recent indications that Division IX and its parent organization, AER, may be considering a revision of their policy of rejecting blind applicants for certification as mobility instructors, but in a totally inappropriate manner since the proposed new standards presuppose the correctness of the techniques used by sighted instructors (merely seeking ways to accommodate to those techniques) instead of recognizing that the techniques of blind instructors are different but not inferior: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1994, in the City of Detroit, Michigan, that we reject the notion that blind persons cannot competently function as mobility instructors of the blind or that their techniques are inferior to the techniques used by sighted instructors; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we call on Division IX of AER to reconsider its position concerning certification of mobility instructors and to bring its policies into conformity with current best practice in the field; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we call on the federal Rehabilitation Services Administration to discourage violation of federal antidiscrimination statutes by reviewing university applications for funding of mobility training courses to see whether those universities qualify for future federal grants if they continue to discriminate unfairly and unreasonably against the blind; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we call on all concerned parties in the blindness field to reconsider the current system of certification of mobility instructors of the blind; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we commend the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind for the resolution which it passed concerning this matter on May 13, 1994.
WHEREAS, legislation in the form of H. R. 4263, entitled the "Small Business and Minority Small Business Procurement Opportunities Act of 1994," is being considered by the Congress as part of a broader initiative to reform purchasing procedures of the federal government; and
WHEREAS, among other things this legislation proposes that annual contracting goals shall be established by the President, including a requirement that not less than 5 percent of the total value of all prime contract and subcontract awards for each fiscal year must go to small businesses which are owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals; and
WHEREAS, the Committee on Small Business in the House of Representatives has included language in H.R. 4263 directing the Small Business Administration to consider persons with severe disabilities as socially disadvantaged for purposes of eligibility for minority set-aside contracts; and
WHEREAS, This legislation as now amended by the House Small Business Committee is a positive departure from existing law, which disregards the social disadvantage that often accompanies most disabilities, especially blindness; and
WHEREAS, this legislation represents an important new direction in policy for the minority small business program and underscores once again the need to enact a similar change in Section 8(a) of the Small Business Act: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1994, in the City of Detroit, Michigan, that this organization commend chairman John Lafalce and the members of the House Small Business Committee for responding positively to the request of the National Federation of the Blind for acknowledgment of our right to participate in minority small business programs; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization continue to insist upon adding persons with disabilities to the list of those who, for purposes of participating in the minority small business program, are acknowledged by law as socially disadvantaged; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT we commend the ninety-three members of the United States House of Representatives who, along with Congressman Jim Ramstad, have co-sponsored the Americans with Disabilities Business Development Act and ask them to join us in requesting that, following the example set by H.R. 4263, all bills relating to the minority small business program include class-wide recognition for blind persons and others with disabilities when they are passed.
WHEREAS, an educational philosophy called "full inclusion," is, in its popular implementation, if not in its definition, being used to place all children in the regular school classroom at all times and for all forms of instruction without considering all of a student's needs for instruction and services relating to disability; and
WHEREAS, a desirable goal of the full inclusion movement is the elimination of artificial or discriminatory educational placements which have occurred for convenience and in many instances because of prejudice; and
WHEREAS, genuine inclusion of blind students in all aspects of integrated school settings is a desirable goal, but a mandate for full inclusion is not the most effective way to reach that goal for many students during at least some portion of the educational process; and
WHEREAS, blind students must have educational services which are unique to blindness, including mobility instruction, learning to read and write Braille, and opportunities to become proficient in other adaptive skills, each of which requires time, attention, and knowledge which of necessity are not part of the regular, daily classroom experience with full inclusion at all times; and
WHEREAS, a continuum of educational placements, combined with an expressed preference for the least restrictive setting appropriate to the needs of the individual child, is the best policy to promote the ultimate integration of blind students in school and society by directing that arrangements for specialized services be provided in an effective setting for the child: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1994, in the City of Detroit, Michigan, that this organization oppose policy changes in either legislation or regulations which would remove the continuum of educational placement alternatives which is now available to parents, educators, and students; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that in the current reassessment of special education policy which may lead to changes in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act we urge the Congress and the Clinton administration to maintain support for choices among educational placements for blind students.
WHEREAS, the defined legal and legitimate mission of state vocational rehabilitation agencies is to provide the vocational rehabilitation services which are prescribed in each client's individualized written rehabilitation program; and
WHEREAS, there are a growing number of instances in which state vocational rehabilitation agencies have established and operated ongoing groups of agency clients and others for the purported purpose of providing support and self-help services; and
WHEREAS, chapters, affiliates, and divisions of the National Federation of the Blind not only conduct self-help and self- support activities but are themselves a self-help and self- support network throughout the United States; and
WHEREAS, chapters, affiliates, and divisions of the National Federation of the Blind are used as resources by vocational rehabilitation agencies in many instances; and
WHEREAS, support groups conducted under the auspices of the state vocational rehabilitation agency are in reality often a reaction to the organized blind movement, which is independent from the state agency; and
WHEREAS, rather than fostering support and self-help activities among blind persons, the organization, management, and oversight of support groups by the vocational rehabilitation agency undermines the expression of views which may not necessarily be in harmony with those of the state agency or its policies; and
WHEREAS, collaboration in good faith between organizations of the blind and vocational rehabilitation agencies serving the blind can be a constructive means of promoting self-support activities, but the outright conduct of support groups by agencies in ways which conflict with the organized blind movement is clearly an abuse of agency position and resources, smacking of custodialism and company unions: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1994, in the City of Detroit, Michigan, that this organization oppose the practice of conducting support groups which are controlled either directly or indirectly by state vocational rehabilitation agencies; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we ask the Rehabilitation Services Administration to adopt clear regulations which prohibit use of funds for support groups that are controlled by agencies serving the blind rather than organizations of the blind themselves.
WHEREAS, the federal Randolph-Sheppard Act declares that priority must be given to blind persons in the operation of vending facilities which are under the control of departments, agencies, and instrumentalities of the United States; and
WHEREAS, in a federal court challenge to the Randolph- Sheppard Act the Department of Veterans Affairs sought a ruling that the medical centers which it operates are exempt from providing priority to blind vendors; and
WHEREAS, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has now determined that the Department of Veterans Affairs and its Veterans Canteen Service must honor the priority for blind persons established by the Randolph-Sheppard Act; and
WHEREAS, in addition to the site at issue in the federal court challenge the Department of Veterans Affairs has 170 medical centers, and many of these sites would likely have sufficient business potential for a Randolph-Sheppard facility: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1994, in the City of Detroit, Michigan, that this organization request cooperation by the Department of Veterans Affairs in making good faith efforts to establish business opportunities for blind vendors throughout its medical center system; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we urge the Department of Veterans Affairs to cease and desist from further legal challenges to the priority granted by the Randolph-Sheppard Act and affirmatively demonstrate this policy by negotiating permits for blind vendors to operate facilities at the Department's medical centers nationwide.
WHEREAS, blind persons of all ages frequently use readers both to study for and to take tests at all levels of education from elementary school to post-graduate studies; and
WHEREAS, the use of a reader has proven to be a viable and successful alternative to the use of tapes, large print, and Braille for many blind persons who prefer to use this form of studying and test-taking or who do not possess the skills or training to use the other alternative techniques of blindness; and
WHEREAS, many other testing services, such as SAT, GRE, ACT, and NTE have always permitted blind persons to use readers to take their tests, and this has proven to be an effective method of examination; and
WHEREAS, the current policy of the American Council on Education, GED Testing Service, is not in compliance with Section 36.309 of the regulations implementing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); and
WHEREAS, the ADA states that the methods used for teaching test materials must also be available for taking the examination; and WHEREAS, the American Council on Education and the GED Testing Service do not allow the use of readers when taking the GED test, although many blind persons prefer to use readers to study the GED materials before taking the GED examination; and
WHEREAS, this antiquated and inconsistent policy is not in the spirit of the regulations for the ADA and is not consistent with the policies of other nationally known testing services or the preferences of many blind persons: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1994, in the City of Detroit, Michigan, that this organization condemn and deplore the obsolete policy of the American Council on Education and the GED Testing Service for its intractable attitude toward the use of readers when blind persons take the GED examination; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization use its influence and whatever measures are necessary to persuade the American Council of Education and the GED Testing Service to change this outmoded policy and to allow blind persons to use readers when taking the GED examination.
WHEREAS, the United States Department of the Treasury is examining alternatives to the present currency for the purposes of making counterfeiting more difficult and for making currency more compatible with modern technology; and
WHEREAS, revisions to the present currency may include variations in color, raised markings, bar coding, or other electronically readable formats; and
WHEREAS, it is a widespread misconception that blind people cannot handle their own money because they cannot see it; and
WHEREAS, it is beyond dispute that blind people can, in fact, handle their own money; however, bills which can be identified by other than conventional print could be more convenient for everyone, may be a necessity to safeguard against counterfeiting, and may be desirable to take the best advantage of evolving technology: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1994, in the City of Detroit, Michigan, that this organization express the interest of blind people in the discussion of a modernized form of currency so that any changes which may eventually be made will include methods of identifying money by other than strictly visual means; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this Federation, notwithstanding its expressed interest in the ultimate decisions on currency changes, do all in its power correctly to inform the public that blind people can and do successfully handle money in its present form.
WHEREAS, the Library of Congress, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) program is the primary source of reading matter for most blind people in the United States; and
WHEREAS, for both cost and copyright reasons the service includes provision of machines which are especially designed to play cassette tapes and flexible discs recorded in slow speed and multi-track formats for exclusive use in the NLS program; and
WHEREAS, the commercial availability of recorded or Braille reading matter is not a viable option either as a supplement to or as a replacement for the NLS service, since the choice of such materials from commercial sources is sparse, the reading matter is often abridged, and the prices charged are prohibitively expensive, far exceeding the cost of purchasing the same material produced in standard ink print; and
WHEREAS, funding is the single most urgent need of the NLS program to meet the demands of normally anticipated growth, to acquire needed titles for the collection, and especially to ensure an adequate supply of machines to replace thousands of aging ones still in use; and
WHEREAS, budgets presented by the Library of Congress and the President for fiscal years 1993, 1994, and 1995 have each sought funding to begin a phased schedule of replacing the specialized playback machines which have been in service beyond their useful lives; and
WHEREAS, the Congress has so far failed to appropriate sufficient funds to address the growing problem of aging playback machines in the NLS program: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1994, in the City of Detroit, Michigan, that this organization express top priority support for the NLS program to receive the highest possible appropriation, with special attention being given to replacing the growing number of outmoded and broken playback machines which must be supplied for readers to use the recorded media; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we alert all members of Congress to the urgent need for funds to ensure that quality library services for the blind remain available both now and in the future.
WHEREAS, the 1992 amendments to the Rehabilitation Act require each state to create a State Independent Living Council (SILC); and
WHEREAS, Rehabilitation Law has always provided that states may have separate agencies serving the blind; and
WHEREAS, the 1993 Rehabilitation amendments (in keeping with this practice) added the provision that state rehabilitation advisory councils be separate for blind agencies; and
WHEREAS, many of the needs for persons in the other disability groups are not needs of the blind and, likewise, the blind have needs that are not significant for persons with different disabilities; and
WHEREAS, the result of this emphasis on "cross disability services" is that most of what the SILCs are doing is useless and sometimes counterproductive and harmful for the blind, often causing valuable existing programs to be discontinued for lack of funds; and
WHEREAS, some states have preferred to form two SILCs or two independent living plans under one SILC, thus providing an appropriate plan and representation for and among the blind; and
WHEREAS, where there is only one SILC in a state, it has attempted to secure all of the independent living monies available through both the general and blind agencies, leaving no funds for meaningful independent living services for blind individuals in those states: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1994, in the City of Detroit, Michigan, that we call upon the Congress of the United States to pass necessary legislation so that agencies for the blind can provide meaningful independent living services for the blind with independent living funds allocated to these agencies.
WHEREAS, guide dog training includes teaching students to take responsibility for complete maintenance and control of a guide dog; and
WHEREAS, many guide dog schools do not teach their students efficient methods for relieving and picking up after their dogs; and
WHEREAS, many guide dog schools do not stress the importance of learning and maintaining these methods both during and after training; and
WHEREAS, these omissions on the part of many guide dog schools have resulted in the graduation of guide dog users who are unable and/or unwilling to pick up after their dogs; and
WHEREAS, the problem is compounded by ordinances in many cities which exempt blind persons from the requirement that these citizens pick up after their dogs--a permission for blind persons to skip this responsibility of citizenship which blind people should reject and which the guide dog schools should also reject by their training; and
WHEREAS, the irresponsible conduct of guide dog users who do not pick up after their dogs reinforces negative attitudes about blind people in the mind of the public and undermines the efforts of responsible guide dog users to demonstrate the effective use of guide dogs for independent travel: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1994, in the City of Detroit, Michigan, that this organization call upon all guide dog schools to stress the importance of learning and always using effective methods for picking up after a guide dog both during and after training.
WHEREAS, the United States Department of Transportation has now decided to impose a requirement for detectable warnings to be placed on the edges of passenger boarding platforms at key-rail stations; and
WHEREAS, this approach is at odds with the more enlightened position of the Department of Justice and the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board, both of which have suspended detectable warnings requirements during a period of further study, including a review of the need for the requirements; and
WHEREAS, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority has decided not to install the detectable warnings on subway platform edges after being ordered to do so by the Secretary of Transportation, citing safety reasons as the basis for challenging the detectable warnings requirement; and
WHEREAS, the Washington area Metro system, which serves Washington, D. C., the national capital area, and the surrounding suburbs, is among the safest and most used rail facilities in the United States, with platform edges which have recessed flashing lights and are detectable by cane or dog guide; and
WHEREAS, the platform-edge-warning features of the Washington Metro system were designed for the safety of all riders and demonstrably fulfill that purpose; and
WHEREAS, there is not a scintilla of evidence that the installation of detectable warnings would make travel on the Washington Metro system safer for blind people or for anyone else, and compared to the present platform edge warnings there is ample reason to believe that the system would in fact be less safe with detectable warnings: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1994, in the City of Detroit, Michigan, that this organization condemn and deplore the Department of Transportation's irrational insistence upon imposing detectable warnings on transit providers and users of rail systems; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization commend the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority for standing tall on behalf of the safety of all transit users, including riders who are blind.
WHEREAS, the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER) has established criteria for certifying orientation and mobility instructors for the blind; and
WHEREAS, the certification criteria which have been used for many years presume that sight is essential to perform the duties of an instructor in orientation and mobility; and
WHEREAS, professional preparation programs, rehabilitation programs, and education programs often rely upon AER certification in both their admission policies and their employment practices; and
WHEREAS, use of the AER certification criteria in any way leads to artificial and discriminatory barriers, resulting in exclusion of blind people from orientation and mobility instructor certification; and
WHEREAS, agencies and schools which hire orientation and mobility instructors will often require AER certification as a condition for employment, and the institutions which train such instructors will almost without exception not admit blind people to their programs because they would not eventually become certified; and
WHEREAS, the agencies and schools serving the blind and the professional preparation programs for instructors are all federally funded but the Federal government has followed a hands- off policy and permitted discrimination against the blind in these programs for many years; and
WHEREAS, methods of proven effectiveness exist for blind people to teach other blind people how to travel both safely and independently: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1994, in the City of Detroit, Michigan, that this organization condemn and deplore the discriminatory practice of excluding blind people from training, certification, and employment in the orientation and mobility profession; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we petition the United States Department of Education, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, and the Rehabilitation Services Administration to institute a policy of disapproving any future grant applications for programs which in their admission or employment policies follow the discriminatory certification criteria of AER.
WHEREAS, the decline in literacy skills among blind youth of school age is so pronounced as to constitute a national crisis-- of the legally blind children reported to the American Printing House for the Blind in its 1993 annual child count, fewer than 9 percent used Braille, 27 percent used print, and 40 percent, the largest group, read neither Braille nor print; and
WHEREAS, comparative figures for prior years show a steady downward trend in literacy skills among blind children in America; and
WHEREAS, the federal government through the United States Department of Education provides significant financial aid to both state and local education agencies and conditions eligibility for these funds upon meeting certain federal requirements; and
WHEREAS, the unmet literacy needs of blind children are not currently addressed in the federal requirements, although blind adults who do not receive Braille instruction as children will often become dependent upon financial support and services from federal programs; and
WHEREAS, amendments to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) are being considered by the Clinton administration and the Congress in anticipation of legislation to reauthorize or modify certain provisions of IDEA: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1994, in the City of Detroit, Michigan, that this organization call upon responsible leaders in the Congress and officials of policy rank in the Department of Education to approve strong Braille literacy provisions as part of the IDEA reauthorization bill; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this Federation declare its firm and continuing commitment to secure the right to receive Braille literacy services for all students who are blind or visually impaired.
WHEREAS, assistance paid in the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program is intended to meet the basic food, clothing, and shelter needs of recipients but is often insufficient even to achieve these purposes; and
WHEREAS, recipients who have the ability to work or to engage in training with the goal of self-support must be given opportunities to do so without suffering the loss of SSI benefits to meet their basic needs; and
WHEREAS, amendments to title XVI of the Social Security Act (H.R. 3264 and S. 2161) have been proposed in the Congress for the purpose of strengthening the SSI work incentive provisions; and
WHEREAS, changes made by this legislation would include the following: (1) acceptance of a Plan for Achieving Self-Support (PASS) unless it has been disapproved by the Social Security Administration within thirty days of submission by a recipient; (2) greater flexibility in the time allowed for fulfillment of a PASS, including a period of longer than four years if required by the recipient's goal; (3) allowing recipients to accumulate resources under a PASS for the purpose of buying a home; (4) clarifying that unemployment compensation, workers' compensation, and sick pay are considered to be "earned income" rather than "unearned income" for purposes of determining eligibility and payment amounts in the SSI program; and (5) specification that grants, scholarships, and fellowships not otherwise excluded from a recipient's income are "earned," not "unearned," income; and
WHEREAS, approval of these changes would promote self- support efforts among recipients and eventually lead to complete independence from SSI for many: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1994, in the City of Detroit, Michigan, that this organization call for enactment by the Congress of the SSI work incentive amendments proposed in H.R. 3264 and S. 2161; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that in requesting the prompt approval of this legislation this Federation remind the Congress that investment in work incentives for SSI recipients makes good sense and fulfills sound economic principles.
WHEREAS, a proposal to re-engineer the process used for determining disability is being considered by the Social Security Administration; and
WHEREAS, in its major thrust the plan would streamline and simplify the procedures now in place to evaluate medical and other evidence relating to disability and blindness determinations affecting applicants for benefits in both the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs; and
WHEREAS, the conditions for determining blindness and eligibility for benefits in both programs are clearly prescribed in the Social Security Act, including a defined exemption of earnings used to measure "substantial gainful activity" (SGA) in the SSDI program and no consideration of SGA whatsoever for blind applicants in the SSI program; and
WHEREAS, in light of these provisions the eligibility process for blind individuals should be completed in a matter of days rather than consuming several months as is now the ordinary case; and
WHEREAS, if a blind applicant presents all of the appropriate information which is sufficient for an examiner to make a "presumptive eligibility" determination in either the SSDI or the SSI program, benefits due could be paid on time and the process would be further streamlined: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1994, in the City of Detroit, Michigan, that this organization urge the Social Security Administration and the Congress to move forward promptly with approval and implementation of a re-engineering plan for the disability determination process; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that in the development of the final plan, and especially in its implementation, the unique status of blind applicants be considered in ways that will achieve both quick and accurate determinations; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that, as a further streamlining to the process, we urge the Social Security Administration and the Congress to include provisions for presumptive eligibility determinations to be made in the SSDI program as is now the case in the SSI program whenever a blind applicant supplies information sufficient for such a determination.
WHEREAS, the Clinton administration has voiced its intention to present a proposal to the Congress for raising the federal minimum wage; and
WHEREAS, an exemption from the minimum wage affecting blind employees allows for exploitation of workers with pay rates that are far below the minimum wage and falling far short of the amount required even to meet basic subsistence needs; and
WHEREAS, this exemption affects blind people who work in segregated factories which are often referred to as sheltered workshops; and
WHEREAS, evidence presented to the Congress in a hearing on March 16, 1994, established that procedures now in place to protect subminimum wage employees against management abuses do not work and cannot work to achieve fair pay practices; and
WHEREAS, any system such as the present minimum wage exemption, which benefits employers, is largely employer- executed, and is mostly employer-policed, will never safeguard the interests of the workers: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1994, in the City of Detroit, Michigan, that this organization condemn the substandard pay practices which still exploit the labor of capable blind workers; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we insist upon a place at the table in working with the Clinton administration as the next proposal for raising and modifying the minimum wage is developed.
WHEREAS, by virtue of the Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1992, individuals eligible for vocational rehabilitation services are to be given "choice and increased control" over decisions made concerning the selection of vocational rehabilitation goals, services, and service providers; and
WHEREAS, this mandate for consumer choice runs counter to the philosophy and practices historically followed by vocational rehabilitation agencies and personnel who in all too many instances have asserted so-called professionalism in preference to the expressed wishes and priorities of clients; and
WHEREAS, the acknowledged anti-choice bias which has been prevalent among rehabilitation agencies and professionals makes it imperative that clear regulatory direction concerning the choice mandate must be given from the federal level; and
WHEREAS, draft regulations for the vocational rehabilitation program which were recently circulated tend to send mixed signals by mentioning choice but also allowing state agencies the freedom to conduct business essentially in the usual manner, with perhaps a nod in the direction of consumer choice; and
WHEREAS, the law now requires that rehabilitation agencies and their personnel must abandon practices of exercising control over their clients, and therefore regulations to implement the law must provide the direction which is necessary to achieve this change: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1994, in the City of Detroit, Michigan, that this organization insist upon an unambiguous mandate for consumer choice in the federal vocational rehabilitation regulations; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this Federation call for cooperation by all state vocational rehabilitation agencies in establishing policies to make consumer choice the guiding principle in the rehabilitation program of each individual served.
WHEREAS, a national commission has been appointed to develop a plan for addressing the growth of entitlement spending as a portion of the federal budget; and
WHEREAS, virtually the entire discussion of entitlement reform portrays many of the programs involved as wasteful and out of control; and
WHEREAS, the Social Security system, the largest of the entitlement programs, includes two special trust funds known as the Federal Old Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund and the Federal Disability Insurance Trust Fund, from which monthly cash benefits are paid to individuals and their qualifying dependents based on work performed and contributions to the trust funds resulting from earnings; and
WHEREAS, eligibility rules for receipt of cash benefits are clearly prescribed so that wage-earners and their dependents can qualify only in the event of retirement, death, or disability; and
WHEREAS, proposals being considered by the entitlement reform commission include means testing of Social Security benefits, in other words reducing future Social Security benefits based on financial circumstances; and
WHEREAS, the insurance concept which underlies the Social Security system is one of its fundamental strengths, providing an incentive for all Americans to work and earn coverage and assuring that all who do work will be treated equally in receiving the benefits which they have earned as a percentage of their lifetime earnings; and
WHEREAS, the benefits paid and payable to thousands of blind Americans could eventually be affected significantly by a decision to means test Social Security in any way: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1994, in the City of Detroit, Michigan, that this organization state its firm opposition to means testing of benefits paid from either the Federal Old Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund or the Federal Disability Insurance Trust Fund both now and in the future; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the position expressed in this resolution be communicated promptly to the entitlement reform commission with the reminder that rather than reflecting a program that is out of control, the costs of the Social Security system demonstrate the continuing need for a viable social insurance program in the United States.
CONSTITUTION OF THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND AS AMENDED 1986
ARTICLE I. NAME
The name of this organization is the National Federation of the Blind.
ARTICLE II. PURPOSE
The purpose of the National Federation of the Blind is to serve as a vehicle for collective action by the blind of the nation; to function as a mechanism through which the blind and interested sighted persons can come together in local, state, and national meetings to plan and carry out programs to improve the quality of life for the blind; to provide a means of collective action for parents of blind children; to promote the vocational, cultural, and social advancement of the blind; to achieve the integration of the blind into society on a basis of equality with the sighted; and to take any other action which will improve the overall condition and standard of living of the blind.
ARTICLE III. MEMBERSHIP
Section A. The membership of the National Federation of the Blind shall consist of the members of the state affiliates, the members of divisions, and members at large. Members of divisions and members at large shall have the same rights, privileges, and responsibilities in the National Federation of the Blind as members of state affiliates.
The Board of Directors shall establish procedures for admission of divisions and shall determine the structure of divisions. The divisions shall, with the approval of the Board, adopt constitutions and determine their membership policies. Membership in divisions shall not be conditioned upon membership in state affiliates.
The Board of Directors shall establish procedures for admission of members at large, determine how many classes of such members shall be established, and determine the annual dues to be paid by members of each class.
Section B. Each state or territorial possession of the United States, including the District of Columbia, having an affiliate shall have one vote at the National Convention. These organizations shall be referred to as state affiliates.
Section C. State affiliates shall be organizations of the blind controlled by the blind. No organization shall be recognized as an "organization of the blind controlled by the blind" unless at least a majority of its voting members and a majority of the voting members of each of its local chapters are blind.
Section D. The Board of Directors shall establish procedures for the admission of state affiliates. There shall be only one state affiliate in each state.
Section E. Any member, local chapter, state affiliate, or division of this organization may be suspended, expelled, or otherwise disciplined for misconduct or for activity unbecoming to a member or affiliate of this organization by a two-thirds vote of the Board of Directors or by a simple majority of the states present and voting at a National Convention. If the action is to be taken by the Board, there must be good cause, and a good faith effort must have been made to try to resolve the problem by discussion and negotiation. If the action is to be taken by the Convention, notice must be given on the preceding day at an open Board meeting or a session of the Convention. If a dispute arises as to whether there was "good cause," or whether the Board made a "good faith effort," the National Convention (acting in its capacity as the supreme authority of the Federation) shall have the power to make final disposition of the matter; but until or unless the Board's action is reversed by the National Convention, the ruling of the Board shall continue in effect.
OFFICERS, BOARD OF DIRECTORS, AND NATIONAL ADVISORY BOARD
Section A. The officers of The National Federation of the Blind shall be: (1) President, (2) First Vice President, (3) Second Vice President, (4) Secretary, and (5) Treasurer. They shall be elected biennially.
Section B. The officers shall be elected by majority vote of the state affiliates present and voting at a National Convention.
Section C. The National Federation of the Blind shall have a Board of Directors, which shall be composed of the five officers and twelve additional members, six of whom shall be elected at the Annual Convention during even-numbered years and six of whom shall be elected at the Annual Convention during odd-numbered years. The members of the Board of Directors shall serve for two- year terms.
Section D. The Board of Directors may, in its discretion, create a National Advisory Board and determine the duties and qualifications of the members of the National Advisory Board.
POWERS AND DUTIES OF THE CONVENTION, THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS, AND THE PRESIDENT
Section A. Powers and Duties of the Convention. The Convention is the supreme authority of the Federation. It is the legislature of the Federation. As such, it has final authority with respect to all issues of policy. Its decisions shall be made after opportunity has been afforded for full and fair discussion. Delegates and members in attendance may participate in all Convention discussions as a matter of right. Any member of the Federation may make or second motions, propose nominations, and serve on committees; and is eligible for election to office, except that only blind members may be elected to the National Board. Voting and making motions by proxy are prohibited. Consistent with the democratic character of the Federation, Convention meetings shall be so conducted as to prevent parliamentary maneuvers which would have the effect of interfering with the expression of the will of the majority on any question, or with the rights of the minority to full and fair presentation of their views. The Convention is not merely a gathering of representatives of separate state organizations. It is a meeting of the Federation at the national level in its character as a national organization. Committees of the Federation are committees of the national organization. The nominating committee shall consist of one member from each state affiliate represented at the Convention, and each state affiliate shall appoint its member to the committee. From among the members of the committee, the President shall appoint a chairperson.
Section B. Powers and Duties of the Board of Directors. The function of the Board of Directors as the governing body of the Federation between Conventions is to make policies when necessary and not in conflict with the policies adopted by the Convention. Policy decisions which can reasonably be postponed until the next meeting of the National Convention shall not be made by the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors shall serve as a credentials committee. It shall have the power to deal with organizational problems presented to it by any member, local chapter, state affiliate, or division; shall decide appeals regarding the validity of elections in local chapters, state affiliates, or divisions; and shall certify the credentials of delegates when questions regarding the validity of such credentials arise. By a two-thirds vote the Board may suspend one of its members for violation of a policy of the organization or for other action unbecoming to a member of the Federation. By a two-thirds vote the Board may reorganize any local chapter, state affiliate, or division. The Board may not suspend one of its own members or reorganize a local chapter, state affiliate, or division except for good cause and after a good faith effort has been made to try to resolve the problem by discussion and negotiation. If a dispute arises as to whether there was "good cause" or whether the Board made a "good faith effort," the National Convention (acting in its capacity as the supreme authority of the Federation) shall have the power to make final disposition of the matter; but until or unless the Board's action is reversed by the National Convention, the ruling of the Board shall continue in effect. There shall be a standing subcommittee of the Board of Directors which shall consist of three members. The committee shall be known as the Subcommittee on Budget and Finance. It shall, whenever it deems necessary, recommend to the Board of Directors principles of budgeting, accounting procedures, and methods of financing the Federation program; and shall consult with the President on major expenditures.
The Board of Directors shall meet at the time of each National Convention. It shall hold other meetings on the call of the President or on the written request of any five members.
Section C. Powers and Duties of the President. The President is the principal administrative officer of the Federation. In this capacity his or her duties consist of: carrying out the policies adopted by the Convention; conducting the day-to-day management of the affairs of the Federation; authorizing expenditures from the Federation treasury in accordance with and in implementation of the policies established by the Convention; appointing all committees of the Federation except the Nominating Committee; coordinating all activities of the Federation, including the work of other officers and of committees; hiring, supervising, and dismissing staff members and other employees of the Federation, and determining their numbers and compensation; taking all administrative actions necessary and proper to put into effect the programs and accomplish the purposes of the Federation. The implementation and administration of the interim policies adopted by the Board of Directors are the responsibility of the President as principal administrative officer of the Federation.
ARTICLE VI. STATE AFFILIATES
Any organized group desiring to become a state affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind shall apply for affiliation by submitting to the President of the National Federation of the Blind a copy of its constitution and a list of the names and addresses of its elected officers. Under procedures to be established by the Board of Directors, action shall be taken on the application. If the action is affirmative, the National Federation of the Blind shall issue to the organization a charter of affiliation. Upon request of the National President the state affiliate shall provide to the National President the names and addresses of its members. Copies of all amendments to the constitution and/or bylaws of an affiliate shall be sent without delay to the National President. No organization shall be accepted as an affiliate and no organization shall remain an affiliate unless at least a majority of its voting members are blind. The president, vice president (or vice presidents), and at least a majority of the executive committee or board of directors of the state affiliate and of all of its local chapters must be blind. Affiliates must not merely be social organizations but must formulate programs and actively work to promote the economic and social betterment of the blind. Affiliates and their local chapters must comply with the provisions of the Constitution of the Federation.
Policy decisions of the Federation are binding upon all affiliates and local chapters, and the affiliate and its local chapters must participate affirmatively in carrying out such policy decisions. The name National Federation of the Blind, Federation of the Blind, or any variant thereof is the property of the National Federation of the Blind; and any affiliate, or local chapter of an affiliate, which ceases to be part of the National Federation of the Blind (for whatever reason) shall forthwith forfeit the right to use the name National Federation of the Blind, Federation of the Blind, or any variant thereof.
A general convention of the membership of an affiliate or of the elected delegates of the membership must be held and its principal executive officers must be elected at least once every two years. There can be no closed membership. Proxy voting is prohibited in state affiliates and local chapters. Each affiliate must have a written constitution or bylaws setting forth its structure, the authority of its officers, and the basic procedures which it will follow. No publicly contributed funds may be divided among the membership of an affiliate or local chapter on the basis of membership, and (upon request from the National Office) an affiliate or local chapter must present an accounting of all of its receipts and expenditures. An affiliate or local chapter must not indulge in attacks upon the officers, Board members, leaders, or members of the Federation or upon the organization itself outside of the organization, and must not allow its officers or members to indulge in such attacks. This requirement shall not be interpreted to interfere with the right of an affiliate or local chapter, or its officers or members, to carry on a political campaign inside the Federation for election to office or to achieve policy changes. However, the organization will not sanction or permit deliberate, sustained campaigns of internal organizational destruction by state affiliates, local chapters, or members. No affiliate or local chapter may join or support, or allow its officers or members to join or support, any temporary or permanent organization inside the Federation which has not received the sanction and approval of the Federation.
ARTICLE VII. DISSOLUTION
In the event of dissolution, all assets of the organization shall be given to an organization with similar purposes which has received a 501(c)(3) certification by the Internal Revenue Service.
ARTICLE VIII. AMENDMENTS
This Constitution may be amended at any regular Annual Convention of the Federation by an affirmative vote of two-thirds of the state affiliates registered, present, and voting; provided that the proposed amendment shall have been signed by five state affiliates in good standing and that it shall have been presented to the President the day before final action by the Convention.
If you or a friend would like to remember the National Federation of the Blind in your will, you can do so by employing the following language:
"I give, devise, and bequeath unto National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230, a District of Columbia nonprofit corporation, the sum of $_____ (or "_____ percent of my net estate" or "The following stocks and bonds: _____") to be used for its worthy purposes on behalf of blind persons."